News that Nigella is working on a new Italian-themed book and TV series has filled me with a mixture of joy and gloom. It’s not that I don’t love the thought of another book, but I fear it will induce more wittering on about how soothing it is to stir risotto.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found making risotto to be soothing. It’s repetive, boring and not to be done if you’re the sort of person who multi-tasks in the kitchen (or has a small child underfoot). I don’t mind doing it if I have absolutely nothing else to do, but I fear my life has little room for mindless stirring a la Nigella, who always paints a cosy picture of making risotto while you have a glass of wine.
Anyway, while idly flicking through Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking a while ago (thanks Dom!) I realised where Nigella got her love of stirring from.
Hazan writes at length of the horrors of instant polenta and how hideous it is compared to the real thing, which should be lovingly stirred for hours over an open fire etc etc. But she redeems herself by sharing a method for practically no-stir polenta, which still takes a while but is not so needy. That’s the sort of cooking I like.
I can’t convince anyone in my house to love wet polenta, but they do deign to eat it in a sort of gnocchi form. You make the polenta (by whichever method you prefer) and leave it to set in a slab. Then, a few hours later (or the next day), you cut it into cubes, drizzle them with olive oil and scatter lots of grated parmesan over the top. Bake them in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so, until everything is golden and crispy, then serve atop a puddle of tomato sauce (the sort you make from simmering tinned tomatoes, garlic and onion, not the sort that comes in a squeezy bottle).
Or, just drizzle it with olive oil, then toss through some walnuts and chunks of blue cheese about five minutes before it’s cooked. Delicimo, as Nigella might say.