Polenta is gluten-free, inexpensive and delicious. I recently spent a month in Italy and often enjoyed creamy polenta in lieu of the other more common wheat-based carbs like pasta and pizza. This cornmeal dish’s claim to fame isn’t so much its nutrition profile. Similar to pasta, polenta is a simply wonderful base for delivering delicious sauces and flavourful cheeses.
This tomato saucy, intensely aromatic dish tastes absolutely incredible in camp. With all the savoury and satisfying flavours of baked Italian lasagna, this polenta is very well received after a day of munching on trail mix and bars.
• Large/tall camping pot (for cooking the polenta)
• Smaller camping pot (for rehydrating/warming tomato sauce and vegetables)
• Whisk (for blending the polenta)
• Long serving spoon (for scooping to the bottom layer of polenta)
- 1 cup organic polenta or cornmeal
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 cube of bouillon
- 2 cloves fresh garlic (in skins)
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- 280 grams asiago cheese (about 1 cup shredded) or 1 cup of shredded Daiya cheese
- Measure cornmeal and sea salt and place into a sealable bag
- Pour olive oil into a small leak-proof jar or Nalgene bottle
- Pack bouillon, garlic and parsley into a bag
- Pack cheese; asiago can be left as whole wedge or shredded. (Best left un-shredded if it will be hot temperatures on your trip – it may melt together, so you can always shred or cut into small pieces in camp).
Tomato Sauce and Vegetables:
- In the smaller pot, sauté some fresh crusted garlic in a little olive oil.
- In this same pot, rehydrate the tomato sauce and vegetables by adding enough boiling water to achieve desired consistency. The time this takes depends on the thickness of the vegetables and the homemade tomato leather or package instructions if store bought (it could be up to an hour).
- Se aside.
- Boil 4 cups water and salt in a large pot.
- Turn down heat to medium and blend in the bouillon cube, dissolving well.
- Next, add the cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking constantly until there are no lumps.
- Turn down to a low simmer and whisk polenta until it starts to thicken, about 5 minutes (The mixture should still be slightly loose).
- Cover and cook at lowest heat for 20 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes or so.
- When polenta is too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon.
- Polenta is done when texture is creamy and the individual grains are tender.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Turn heat off, keep lid on the pot, and let it “steam-cook” for another 10 minutes.
Note: different cuts of cornmeal will cook at different rates, coarse or stone ground taking longer than fine. A tip to shorten the cooking time is soak the cornmeal ahead of time, 1-3 hours before cooking. Use the same amount of water you will eventually cook it in, and do not drain off this soaking water.
- Heat tomato sauce and vegetables.
- Now, to the pot of polenta, add a layer of 1/3 of the asiago cheese, and a layer of 1/2 the tomato sauce.
- Repeat: 1/3 of the cheese, and the remaining tomato sauce.
- End with last of the cheese sprinkled on top.
- Place on top and let sit for 5-10 minutes to set/melt.
- To serve, use a long spoon and scoop down to the very bottom layer and serve in a bowl with dried parsley sprinkled on top.
Optional: Dried meat can be added to the tomato sauce while heating it up, or re-hydrated beans or cooked sprouted lentils can be mixed into the cooked polenta at the step where you mix in the olive oil (step 8, under the polenta heading).