I want to say something about how the weather is getting chillier by the day and we’re craving comfort foods yadda yadda, but the truth of the matter is that this is California and we’ve been in an endless summer for years now. Our drought is the new normal and our winter coats have laid untouched since 2011. But come autumn, I still crave the notion of warming comfort food, even if it’s become something of a masquerade here in the golden state.
This creamy, cheesy polenta with ragu hits all the comfort food notes without taking up hours on the stove to cook. This is an easy weeknight meal, and the less time we spend over our stoves, the cooler our homes will stay, and the more we can fool ourselves into thinking it’s cold outside. Seasons still exist, right?
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground lean beef
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup sliced basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/3 cups instant polenta
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Cook beef until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, 1/4 cup basil, oregano, rosemary, chile flakes, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the pepper and cook until onion is softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
2. In the meantime, bring 1 quart water to a boil in a medium pot. Add polenta and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring, until polenta thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly add up to 1/2 additional cup of water if necessary to thin. Stir in butter and 1/3 cup cheese. Serve polenta topped with ragù, basil, and more cheese.