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Asparagus Polenta Bowls with Sautéed Greens and Ricotta
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
These versatile asparagus polenta bowls are a study in contrasting flavors and textures. Buttery polenta counters the bitter notes of spring greens and asparagus, while creamy ricotta tempers the heat of red pepper flakes and young garlic.  This recipe lends itself to variation – sub in your favorite greens or sautéed vegetables or top with an egg or the protein of your choice.
Recipe Type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: asparagus polenta bowls
Makes: 4 servings
Author: Elizabeth Stark
  • 4 cups water, plus 1 cup more as needed
  • 1 cup dry polenta (also known as corn grits)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped and well rinsed
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 pound broccoli rabe
  • 2 cups arugula, kale, or greens of choice
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon plus a squeeze of juice
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Radish slices, sprinkled with a squeeze of lemon and sea salt
  1. In a 2-quart pot, bring 4 cups cold water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and then whisk in polenta. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a low simmer. Cook, stirring often, about 40 minutes, or until polenta is tender and creamy. If needed or desired, add up to 1 cup more water. (I find the amount of water I need varies from day to day, so use your best judgement.) Add sea salt to taste.
  2. Meanwhile, throughly rinse vegetables and arrange on a towel to dry.
  3. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  4. Bring a big pot of cold water to a boil. Blanche asparagus 1 - 2 minutes, remove from boiling water with tongs, and set under cold running water. Repeat for the broccoli rabe. Pat vegetables dry with a clean towel.
  5. Set a 9 or 10-inch skillet over medium/medium-high heat (hot, but not so hot the oil smokes). Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and half the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt. Sauté 2 minutes, or just until golden and slightly blistered. Remove to a large platter and set in the warm oven. Repeat for remaining asparagus. To the same skillet, add another tablespoon olive oil, broccoli rabe, and a pinch sea salt, and sauté about 4 minutes. Remove to warm platter. Remove skillet from heat briefly.
  6. Once skillet has cooled slightly, lower heat to medium, and add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 1 minute. Add arugula or kale, and sauté just until wilted. Sprinkle with sea salt. Spoon mixture over rabe and asparagus. Add sea salt to taste. Top with lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  7. Spoon ricotta into a small bowl and add a pinch each sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with olive oil.
  8. To serve, spoon polenta into shallow bowls, pile with cooked vegetables, and dot with ricotta mixture. Garnish with radishes and red pepper flakes to taste.