National Family Meals Month: Polenta Family-style; from Stove to Slab

My son, Nico, waiting patiently for the rest of the family to sit so he can dig in!
Our Charcuterie spread on the Family Meal Board

September is National Family Meals Month, and we still have a few days left to honor it! Honestly, everyday is Family Meal Day in my world, and here’s why.

Research has shown the positive implications that may result from families eating together. Healthier families and finances, better grades, less drug use in teens, and a closer family unit. There’s just no reason not to implement it! Some may say that time is the issue, and I can definitely relate. However, if you meal plan or meal prep, and get the family in the kitchen, it is much easier. I make sure to find meals that I can prepare in less than 30 minutes so that we can spend the time together at the table and some nights, beyond dinner for some games! Implementing family meals at least a few nights per week can make a difference, so go for it! If you need additional help getting your kids to eat healthy foods, be sure to grab my How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods Tip Sheet.

So, on to the recipe! My Great Grandmother, Aquilina, was from Intradacqua, in the Abruzzi region of Italy. She would prepare polenta in this way for our family. It was my most favorite family dinner of my childhood….. aside from the Feast of the Seven Fishes we have on Christmas Eve. But that is a holiday, the polenta was served more regularly. I have fond memories of my Great Aunt Mary carving the boot of Italy out of the polenta in her section of the polenta. And I really mean HER section. You wouldn’t dare dip into anyone else’s area!

The beauty of polenta on the board is that everyone can have it the way they like it, and it’s a fun, family experience you have together! Traditionally, we serve it with a bolognese or marinara sauce, but the possibilities are endless! We have most recently served it with a wild mushroom and sausage ragu, and balsamic roasted veggies. Basically, any topping you enjoy could top the polenta, it’s a blank canvas!

Basic Polenta

  • 6 Cups water
  • 4 oz. muenster cheese (any cheese of choice or if vegan, 1/8 cup of nutritional yeast can be used for hat cheesy flavor)
  • 2 Cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup organic half and half (your favorite plant-milk can be used, such as cashew milk for that extra creamy boost)
  • 3 tbs grass-fed butter or ghee

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Salt the water, and gradually add the cornmeal and whisk until smooth. Reduce heat to low and cook about 10-15 minutes, stirring it often. Add the half and half and butter and remove from heat. Transfer polenta to the polenta board or serving bowls.

Where do you find a polenta board?

Fresh Foodie Mama and sister company, Pallet Brothers (well, brother company 😉 ARE OFFERING CUSTOM- MADE FAMILY MEAL BOARDS! These are perfect for serving a variety of family meals! From polenta, to charcuterie, baked potato and taco bars, lowcountry boil, shrimp and grits, picnic on the floor or at your favorite festival; you name it and it will be so much fun! You can purchase them on Etsy or PM on Facebook with an order.

This was a special Easter dinner using the Polenta board. We had the Wild Mushroom Ragu as the topping (top right corner)

Topping Options for Polenta:

Wild Mushroom and Sausage Ragu

  • 1 pound wild mushroom such as shiitake, oyster, cremini chopped
  • 1 pound Italian ground sausage (try to find a more natural version with no nitrites/nitrates, or from a local farm if possible)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 cups broth of choice
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (nutritional yeast is a great dairy-free alternative)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup basil chopped
  • 1/4 Italian flat-leaf parsley chopped
  • 1/2 tsp pink himalayan salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the sausage and cook until brown. Remove from pan and set aside, but don’t drain the oil. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and saute until the mushrooms are soft and liquid has evaporated, another 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add Marsala. Put back on the heat and cook until the Marsala has evaporated, then add the broth. Simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Stir in the sausage, cheese, and herbs, and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve over polenta.

-Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentis, Everyday Italian; Mushroom Ragu

Nico’s Vegan Pesto

  • 1 large handful of fresh basil (about a cup)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup nut of choice (pinenuts, cashews, walnuts, pepitas)
  • 2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Pulse ingredients in a food processor or blender until the consistency you desire. Serve over EVERYTHING!

Another great topping is this Balsamic Roasted Vegetables with garlic chickpeas. I add smoked paprika to my chickpeas and they are so delicious!

However you serve it, be sure to make it with lots of love, and enough variety to suit your family’s tastes. I promise, it will make for a memorable Family Meal!

Action shot of my Dad pouring polenta onto the board!

Buon Appetito!

Sara ~Fresh Foodie Mama~


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