These polenta pots are tasty and elegant enough to serve as a winter starter, perfect to prepare in advance and quickly bake before serving. The original Italian recipe uses pancetta and fontina, but you can replace with bacon and Cheddar. The mushrooms you use are up to you!
1 litre water
250g polenta (cornmeal)
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
50g pancetta or bacon, cubed
300g mushrooms, sliced
120ml white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
50g fontina cheese, cubed
grated Parmesan cheese, as needed
butter, as needed
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Heat the litre of water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. When it begins to simmer, stir in the polenta and teaspoon of salt. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 40 minutes, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon. Towards the end of cooking, stir more frequently to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The polenta is ready when it easily leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat the oil and garlic over medium heat until the garlic just starts to take colour. Add pancetta or bacon and fry for a few minutes until some of its fat is released. Add mushrooms and stir to coat. Increase the heat to high and pour in the wine, allowing it to simmer to burn off the alcohol. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for 10 minutes, or until mushrooms have softened. Season with salt, pepper and parsley. Discard the garlic and remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Grease 8 ramekins.
Divide the polenta between the ramekins, filling each ramekin about 3/4 full. To each add about 1 tablespoon of the mushroom mixture, then top with fontina and Parmesan cheese. Dot with butter in a few places.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for 10 minutes and serve.