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Weeknight Polenta with Broccoli Rabe, Toasted Breadcrumbs, and Parmesan

April 04, 2011 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

Weeknight Polenta with Broccoli Rabe, Toasted Breadcrumbs, and Parmesan

If you like meat with your vegetables, add a lamb chop to this plate and you’ll be set. Later in the season you might include a baked tomato or tomato salad, but for chilly April, this works fine as a weekday dinner for me. While the polenta is cooking, cook the broccoli raab, toast some bread crumbs and grate an ounce or two of your favorite hard cheese, whether it’s an aged Asiago or Parmesan. The crumbs add an extra crunch to the dish.

When you’ve had polenta in a restaurant that’s to die for, it’s probably because it’s chock full of butter and cheese.  I find 1-2 tablespoons of butter will enrich this basic grain, though I sometimes use more, or toss in odds and ends of grated cheese.


sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
few pinches red pepper flakes
hard cheese, for grating
2 tablespoons olive oil, to finish
breadcrumbs made from 1 slice bread, crisped in a dry skillet or toaster oven
lemon wedges for squeezing over greens


1. To make the polenta, bring four cups water to a boil.  Add 1-teaspoon salt, then whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the polenta, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the rest of your meal.  If it gets too stiff, add more water. The corn will continue to absorb it. Towards the end stir in the butter and any bits of cheese you might want to add. Hold the polenta over low heat or in a double boiler.

2. Trim the very ends off the broccoli raab, leaving most of the stems. Wash well.  Bring a few quarts water to a boil in a wide pan.  Add salt, then the greens. They needn’t be submerged.  Put a lid on the pan, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until the greens are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. To test, take a bite of one of the stems to make sure.  Drain, hold the broccoli raab to add in again in next step and return the pan to the heat.

3. Add the olive oil and garlic and cook just until the garlic is pale gold. Remove the garlic and add the cooked broccoli raab and a few pinches pepper flakes.  Turn the greens in the oil and cook until heated through. Taste for salt and season if needed.

4. To serve, make a mound of polenta on each plate.  Heap the greens over the polenta or to the side, sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and grated cheese, and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Makes dinner for two or three, but easy to multiply