Polenta Torta with Gorgonzola and Savoy Cabbage (Torta di Polenta, Gorgonzola, e Verze), is our second recipe chosen from Lidia Bastianich and Tania Bastianich Manuali's new cookbook "Lidia's Celebrate Like an Italian". We're hosting a week sharing some of their recipes, and if a week is not enough there will be others to follow, we assure you!
Song of the day: Everybody's got to learn sometime (Indaco dagli Occhi del Cielo) - Zucchero feat. Jenny Bae
Needless to say, we were absolutely thrilled to review Lidia Bastianich's new cookbook, co-written with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali, "Lidia's Celebrate Like an Italian - 220 Foolproof Recipes That Make Every Meal a Party". Thank you, Appetite Random House for the opportunity.
Italians know how to celebrate, and they always find a reason to do so. Whether it is sharing the table with family, invite some friends over, or host a big, festive gathering, they make sure to be prepped for the occasion. The house will be cleaned and organized, every room of it, the table beautifully set, possibly with the "servizio buono" (best China), the scent of food prepared with love and care with the best ingredients lingering in the air, the host all dressed up, and everything, from the moment you step in, would say "welcome to my home".
When I flipped through Lidia's cookbook, from the pictures and the choice of recipes, I recognized that quintessential Italian way of celebrating, warm and inviting. Quite a few of the recipes talked home to me, some were not usual for my family to make but nonetheless classic dishes from a different part of Italy, while others, were a nice surprise of pretty tasty new ideas.
- Peperonata (Stewed Savory Peppers) (Page 46)
We talked about this recipe in this post and more about the cookbook review.
- Pear and Chocolate Tart (Crostata di Pere e Cioccolata) (Page 344)
- Coffee Panna Cotta (Panna Cotta al Caffe’) (Page 351)
Both dessert recipes are going to be posted at the end of the week.
Today’s Tested Recipe
Polenta Torta with Gorgonzola and Savoy Cabbage (Torta di Polenta, Gorgonzola, e Verze) (Page 194)
I cannot count the many times there was polenta on our table in Italy. My grandparents loved it, my parents felt the same way, so either at home or at a family Sunday gathering at my nonni's, you could easily find a polenta dish.
At my nonni, you would find on the table the big wood board called "spianatoia", the polenta would be distributed all over, the thick flavorful sauce spread on top, together with sausages and pork ribs cooked in the sauce, and finished with a generous dusting of Parmigiano. Everybody would find a spot on the wood board and they would all eat together, making their way into the polenta, neighboring with their fork the other person's spot. And after some time, where silence was king since everybody would be busy eating, the polenta would be gone.
At my parents', my mom and dad would take turns stirring the polenta in the big copper pot, with a big whisk (both specifically used to make polenta), paying attention it didn't stick to the bottom and burn, ruining irremediably the flavor of the polenta. When ready, my father would spread the polenta on each plate, or on individual wood boards bought at a country fair, covering the polenta with the sauce where sausages would be swimming, leaving a thick border around with no sauce and remembering absolutely no sausage for me, just a double grating of Parmigiano.
When my relatives that lived in Veneto, the Region North-East of Italy, would come and visit, we would have polenta "white". My aunt would make her famous "Polenta e Baccalà alla Vicentina", that is Salt Cod with Polenta, a mouthwatering, creamy, flavorful recipe, so different from the polenta with tomato sauce we were used to having.
As soon as I saw Lidia's recipe for this amazing Polenta Torta with Gorgonzola and Savoy Cabbage (Torta di Polenta, Gorgonzola, e Verze) I knew we had to make it. Quite a few were the reasons that drew me to it. First of all, it was beautiful, second, it was polenta, and similar to the one my aunt makes, third, it had gorgonzola, forth, it had a mix of savoy cabbage and potatoes that it is one my dad's feature recipes. Can you imagine all of this together what kind of an incredible dish would create? Well, we know, 'cause we made it!
Polenta Torta with Gorgonzola and Savoy Cabbage is definitely not a 15 or 30-minute meal. But with Lidia's advice and easy-to-follow instructions, you will have no hesitation and it will seem like you've been doing this dish forever. You certainly need to plan to spend some time in the kitchen, and maybe, like we did, start the day before by making the polenta, wash, chop and boil the savoy cabbage and potatoes. That will save you some time and reduce the stress in the kitchen. If you have a partner to share the kitchen, responsibility, joy, and success, like I have in Loreto, that would be even better. The final result will repay you tenfold for the effort that you put into it, and it will show your guests, or simply your family, your love and care for them. And a WOW will escape from their mouths.
With polenta done and resting in a 9-inch cake pan, the savoy cabbage and potatoes sauteed in the pan with e.v.o. oil, garlic and chili flakes (the best "trio" in my opinion), we called it a day and woke up the next morning ready to finish the dish and set it in the oven to cook in time to take pictures before the sun would set (read: life of a food blogger in the Far North). The polenta was fully set, and Loreto did an amazing job slicing it nicely, forming 3 layers. At that point I had a bit of a panic attack since you all know that layered cakes are not my thing, so Loreto (Mr. Calm Cucumber) came to the rescue and we filled the polenta with the cabbage/potato mixture, and the gorgonzola, on each layer, finishing the top with a slather of melted butter and a bountiful grating of Grana Padano. Once the layers were cut and assembled, we knew we were winning this challenge. Aren't you salivating by now? We were, and a few were the handfuls of cabbage/potato or gorgonzola that didn't make it in the Polenta Torta but ended up in our mouth (incredible how such things happen! lol).
As it bakes in the oven the aroma of corn and a mix of cheese, potato and cabbage start to linger in the kitchen. Loreto and I are bent over peeking through the oven door, watching the gorgonzola ooze down the sides, and the Grana Padano start to melt and form that crusty top. "Is it ready yet?" one of my go-to demands, with Loreto always patiently responding "Not yet".
Taking this Polenta Torta out of the oven was a two-person task. Quite heavy and substantial, it required a bit of arm muscle for me to hold it while Loreto was taking the picture.
We could not wait to unleash the springform and have the patience to take the final pictures. Once that was done, our forks were ready and the taste test begins. The polenta is so moist and just melts in your mouth. This is where the sauteed cabbage comes in with that sweet and earthy flavor. The potatoes like velvet on your tongue taking the texture of this dish to new heights. Finally, the gorgonzola mingles in between ingredients making its statement in a harmonious way which holds you in this blissful state. The chili flakes, garlic, olive oil, and butter also play an important role to giving this dish richness, and that top crust with the melted and crispy Grana Padano hands a nice diversity to the creamy texture of the whole. This recipe is the epitome of food love for us, it has comfort, richness and an elegance to it that makes it entice its gazers.
Lidia suggests you can vary the filling, however you wish, and if going for a tomato sauce, save the extra sauce and serve it on the side when slicing the Polenta Torta. As for us, we loved this flavor combination and would definitely make it again. If you are a gorgonzola lover, you will be in heaven as puddles of it meld and combine with the cabbage/potato mixture and moisten the polenta in a mouthful of deliciousness. But if gorgonzola is not your flavor, Lidia, and us with her, suggests to switch it with Taleggio, or Montasio, for a slightly milder version of the Polenta Torta.
Should you have this book on your shelf?
Our second recipe in takes us into a very confident and appreciative yes! This is a great book to have lingering on the kitchen counters. If you like traditional Italian cooking, infused with a bit of American flair, you will truly enjoy this book. From planning a romantic picnic for two to hosting a large formal party, “Lidia’s Celebrate like an Italian” will give you the tools and recipes to wow your guests and bring joy to a festive occasion. The intimate and interactive style, combined with stories, photos, and tidbits, give you a true look and feel of celebration Italian-style!
Song of the day: Everybody's got to learn sometime (Indaco dagli Occhi del Cielo) - Zucchero feat. Jenny BaePrint
- 5 cups water (or half water and half milk, for a richer taste) (we went for the richer taste!)
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
- 1 recipe basic polenta (preceding recipe), hot
- fine dried bread crumbs, for the pan
- 2 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 1 ½ pounds)
- 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for cooking water
- 1 small head savoy cabbage
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ cups crumbled Gorgonzola or grated Taleggio or Montasio cheese
- ½ cup grated Grana Padano
- In a large saucepan, combine the water (or water and milk), olive oil, bay leaf, and salt, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Very slowly, sift the cornmeal by handfuls into the pot, through the fingers of one hand, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk to remove any lumps.
- Once all of the cornmeal is added, adjust the heat so just a few lazy bubbles pop to the surface. Continue to cook and stir until the polenta is smooth and thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan as it is stirred, about 30 to 35 minutes.
- Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Pour the just-cooked polenta into the greased cake pan. Let stand until cool, then refrigerate until completely chilled, about 4 to 5 hours.
- When the polenta is firm, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch-tall springform pan, coat with bread crumbs, and shake any excess out of the pan.
- Put the potatoes in a large saucepan with ample salted water. Bring to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove any wilted or yellow leaves from the cabbage and cut out the core. Cut the cabbage into 1-inch chunks. Add these to the pot with the potatoes, and cook until both vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes more.
- Drain the vegetables thoroughly. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the thyme and garlic, and cook until garlic is just golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cabbage-potato mixture, the salt, and the pepper flakes. Cook, turning the vegetables occasionally, until the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables begin to sizzle. Mash the vegetables coarsely with the spoon as you turn them, leaving plenty of lumps. Be careful not to scorch the mixture - just cook it until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the garlic cloves (if they haven't mashed into the mixture) and discard.
- Invert the cooled polenta cake onto a cutting board. With a long, thin knife, slice the cake into three even horizontal layers. Place the top layer upside down in the bottom of the buttered 10-inch springform pan. Top with half of the potato-cabbage mixture and half of the Gorgonzola. Top the cheese with the center layer of polenta, and top that with the remaining potato-cabbage mixture and Gorgonzola. Place the bottom layer of the polenta cake upside down over the torta and press gently. Brush the top of the torta with the 2 tablespoons butter, and sprinkle with the grated Grana Padano.
- Bake the torta until the top layer of cheese is lightly browned and the torta is heated through, about 40 minutes.
- Remove, and let cool 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan, and cut the torta into slices to serve.
- Category: Main, Vegetarian
- Method: Cooking, Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian
Author: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
Hardcover: 385 Pages
Publisher: Appetite by Random House
Excerpted from Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian. Copyright © 2017 Tutti a Tavola, LLC. Published in Canada by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Disclosure: A review copy of Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian was provided by Appetite by Random House. All opinions, as usual, are our own.
I love baking and kneading dough because it takes me to a happy place in my soul.