Nigelissima and polenta gnocchi

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.

Polenta Gnocchi
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.



  1. May 21, 2012 / 8:03 pm

    That looks absolutely LOVELY! Just the sort of food I love….Karen

  2. May 21, 2012 / 8:17 pm

    It does look divine! I've never made gnocchi or used polenta which is pretty unbelievable I think. You're gonna hate me but I love making risotto and never find it a chore. I can, if in the mood, do it all quite absentmindedly and multi task which usually Im useless at! Or try my oven baked no stir risotto. Genius!

  3. May 21, 2012 / 9:35 pm

    Oh! I've been wanting a recipe exactly like this – baked polenta appeals far more than wet I have to say. Had the most beautiful gnocchi like this at Fratelli in Wellington and have wanted to recreate it ever since. I shall try!

  4. May 21, 2012 / 10:53 pm

    I'm happy enough to stand and stir, or rope in a deputy to do it while I make a salad (can't trust him to do that bit) on his own. My main problem with risotto that I keep tasting it to see if it's done, so that by the time it is ready I am thoroughly sick of it.
    By the way my children used to love wet polenta with maple syrup for breakfast -`the trick is to call it "cornmeal mush like Laura had in Little House in the Big Woods" (or Prairie, or Plum Creek, or …)

  5. May 22, 2012 / 12:33 pm

    I sympathise with you about risotto. I love the way you serve the polenta. Highly recommend cooking the polenta in the microwave – this is even easier when you are multitasking as it will not burn on the bottom or splutter on you and strangely enough it doesn't go lumpy

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