Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta
I first tried this wonderful side dish at my dear friend Dana Kaminsky’s house for a holiday dinner. She served it with Onion-Braised Brisket and roasted vegetables, among other things, and it was truly a meal to remember. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it’s delicious with any sauce-laden winter roast or stew, and also with my easy New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp recipe.
The recipe is easier than it seems because it uses frozen puréed squash, an ingredient that I never even knew existed. You should be able to find it in the freezer section at any major grocery store but if not, it’s fine to make your own. For the polenta, you can use either instant polenta or finely ground yellow cornmeal (the Quaker brand labeled “Yellow Cornmeal” is widely available in the baking aisle of most supermarkets). For the milk, be sure to use either 2% or whole — your polenta will be much smoother (no lumps!) and creamier.
Begin by melting a few tablespoons of butter in a pot.
Add some finely chopped onions and cook over low heat until soft and translucent.
Add the milk and butternut squash purée and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and add the polenta in a slow steady stream, whisking all the while. Adding the polenta gradually prevents lumps.
Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about five minutes or until the polenta is thickened. To finish the dish, stir in more butter and Parmesan cheese.
The polenta will be pourable at this point, but sets up a bit as it sits. I think it’s best to serve it immediately but you can always cover it and reheat it later; just keep in mind that it won’t be quite as smooth (not a big deal) and you’ll probably need to add some water to thin it out. Enjoy!
Butternut Squash Polenta
- 1 cup very finely chopped yellow onion, from one small onion
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 (12-oz) package frozen butternut squash purée (sometimes called winter squash), about 1-1/2 cups; thawed
- 4-1/2 cups 2% or whole milk (do not use 1% or skim) or 1 cup heavy cream plus 3-1/2 cups water
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3/4 cup instant polenta or fine yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (optional)
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not brown.
- Add the squash, milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream while whisking continuously. (I find it easiest to lightly tap the measuring cup of polenta against the pot so that it sprinkles in.) Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently with a whisk, for about 5 minutes or until polenta is smooth and thickened.
- Remove from the heat and stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Serve immediately or place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the polenta (to prevent a film from forming) and reheat later.
- Note: If you prepare the polenta ahead of time, you will probably need to add some water or milk to thin it out to the desired consistency when you reheat it.
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