Baked Pumpkin Polenta

Another day, another pumpkin recipe. Don’t worry, you can thank me later.

Baked Pumpkin Polenta

Traditional polenta has been given a fall twist with pumpkin and autumn spices.

It’s difficult to imagine that in some parts of the country it’s actually FALL! Mother Nature has been playing tricks on the Central Coast with the last couple of days being in the high 90’s after a week or so of (reasonably) cooler temperatures. Just this past weekend, my family and I were at a beautiful wedding out in the country, and I felt like a vampire in the sun. Hopefully as we enter into the month of October, we get to experience some cooler weather that might deem sweaters and jeans necessary attire in order to stay comfortable.

My pumpkin vines are still in full tilt production, with the vines climbing up the apple tree (I actually have a pumpkin growing in the apple tree!), intertwining in the grape vines and taking over most of the already-groomed blackberry bushes alongside the fence. 

Traditional polenta has been given a fall twist with pumpkin and autumn spices, making a side dish begging to be served with braised meats or hearty stews.

Anyway, if there’s been a theme with what I’ve been making for dinner lately, it’s been comfort food. My mother-in-law’s cancer treatment didn’t go as planned, and by some miracle, my husband hasn’t resumed smoking yet from all of the stress of uncertainty; if there’s anything that can temporarily mend a broken heart, it’s definitely comfort food.

Thanks to one of our dogs destroying a pumpkin or two in my garden (why, dogs, why?), I’ve been cooking a lot of pumpkin dishes varying from pumpkin muffins, pumpkin mole, to this pumpkin polenta recipe I’m sharing with you today. I typically won’t go out of my way to make polenta, as it’s not one of my favorite things to eat, but I’ve found that pumpkin polenta has the same effect on me as butternut squash risotto. I don’t know of anyone who just eats polenta, and I didn’t think I would just eat this polenta but when served alongside braised ribs—HOLY GUACAMOLE! I’m thinking it may have to with the varietal of pumpkin I’ve been using: jarrahdale, which have a beautiful blue-gray skin and have a much different flavor than most of us have become familiar with from canned pumpkin. The flavor pairs perfectly with my homemade pumpkin pie spice blend, which is what I use in this recipe. Check your local farmer’s markets for jarrahdale or another heirloom pumpkin that is intended for baking or roasting.

Traditional polenta has been given a fall twist with pumpkin and autumn spices, making a side dish begging to be served with braised meats or hearty stews.

It’s quite simple to roast and puree your own pumpkins: simply cut your pumpkin into quarters, generously coating the flesh with olive oil or melted butter, and roast in a preheated oven at 350º for about an hour. You’ll know when it’s done when the color of the skin has changed—in this case the skin turned into a light brown color. Be patient but be vigilant. Once the pumpkin is roasted, it’s easy to scoop out the flesh, toss it into a food processor to get it nice and smooth, and measure it out into freezer bags or jars (be sure to water bath process them!) and then you’ll have lots of pumpkin puree to use for various recipes throughout the next several months. Yes, it’s totally worth the effort. Trust me.

So, I can hear you ask yourself, “Okay, I get this as a side dish, but what about leftovers?” Oh yes, this dish makes heavenly leftovers! Looking for a quick breakfast warmed through with a little honey or maple syrup and half-and-half splashed on top as breakfast? Done! Wanting something warm and substantial without waiting? Put a serving into a microwave-safe bowl (you can add a tiny splash of broth to make the leftover pumpkin polenta more soupy), cover, warm through and enjoy! And we most recently used the leftovers as a juice sopper-upper (instead of French bread) in a wine braised-ribs recipe, but any stew would do. You might also choose to use a broth of your choice instead of water, and if you are looking to serve this with a certain meat, don’t be afraid to use a chicken or beef-based broth (or add chicken of beef bullion to the water to your taste). If you want to stick with this dish being vegetarian, use vegetable broth if you’d like. Or make it vegan by omitting the Parmesan cheese. I’m anxious to hear how you take this simple recipe and make it your own.

Wanting to find other ways to use my bumper crop of homegrown pumpkin, I wanted to try my hand at making a pumpkin polenta that would be perfect for fall alongside braised meats with plenty of delicious sauce.

Traditional polenta has been given a fall twist with pumpkin and autumn spices, making a side dish begging to be served with braised meats or hearty stews.
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Baked Pumpkin Polenta
Traditional polenta is given a spectacular fall twist.
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin pureé
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • to taste salt and pepper
  • to taste nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350ºBring the water to a boil in a dutch oven, add the pumpkin and stir to combine. With the pumpkin-water mixture boiling, add the polenta in a steady stream while whisking. Add the pumpkin pie spice blend, and transfer pumpkin polenta mixture to the oven in the dutch oven or another serving dish. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the polenta is golden and puffed up. Remove from oven, add the grated parmesan cheese and butter, and a generous pinch of nutmeg, stirring until combined. Let stand for about 15 minutes prior to serving.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings