Greens and Beans with Polenta
Loosely adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Bastianich
Though this dish may not sound flavorful and exciting, it packs a good flavor punch. Throw in some garlic, pancetta, and cheese and it turns beans and spinach into a savory delightful and warming comfort food.
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6 main dishes
3/4 cup Golden Pheasant Polenta
4-6 oz. Fontina cheese, preferably real Italian Fontina (a nice cheddar will also work), grated
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. cubed pancetta, or 4 strips bacon cut into cubes
1-2 garlic cloves smashed and peeled
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb. baby spinach, washed and dried
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Large skillet with lid
Add two teaspoons extra virgin olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the smashed garlic and cook for a couple minutes to infuse the oil. Remove the garlic cloves.
Add the cubed pancetta (or bacon) to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat until just crisp. Remove some of the cooked pancetta if you wish to use for garnish. Drain out a bit of the grease, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the skillet.
Add the drained cannellini beans to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat for a minute or two.
Start adding the spinach to the skillet a few handfuls at a time and sprinkle with a bit of fine sea salt. Add a splash of water and cover the skillet to wilt the spinach. Every few minutes check the skillet. Move the wilted spinach and beans gently to the side and add more spinach, a bit of fine sea salt, and a splash of water. Continue in this manner until all spinach is added and cooked down. Gently stir the dish occasionally, being careful not to crush the beans too much.
If you wish you could cook the spinach first, then add the beans. However, I like that the beans have more time to absorb the flavors in the pan when you add them at the beginning.
While you are cooking the greens prepare the polenta. I use Pheasant brand polenta, which has an option for microwave cooking, which is amazing. I’m sure Italians would hate it, but I’ve tried making the tried and true polenta. I stirred it forever. It insisted on sticking to the pan. For me it was not worth it. The flavor and texture of the microwave cooking option is excellent in my opinion, and much easier.
Place 3/4 cup of polenta in a large glass bowl with half a teaspoon of fine sea salt. Add 3 cups of water for a loose polenta. Stir everything together. Cover with a paper towel and microwave for 8 minutes. Remove the polenta from the microwave and whisk. If you wish you can cook it for an additional 3 minutes after whisking to thicken it up. Stir in the 4 ounces of grated Fontina. Serve immediately.
Spoon the polenta into shallow bowls and top with the beans and greens mixture. Garnish with additional cooked pancetta and more grated cheese.