Simmering garlic with kale gives this pesto a depth of flavor, and mascarpone cheese makes the polenta extra creamy. This is a seriously comforting dish you can make all year. Tuscan, or lacinato kale is the ideal green for this pesto — feel free to play around with other varieties!
Polenta Integrale with Kale Pesto
Recipe very lightly adapted from April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens.
Serves 6-8 as a side.
for the kale purée:
- 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 lb. Tuscan kale, thick stems removed (about 1/2 lb. after trimming)
- Kosher salt
- 1 tsp Maldon or another flaky sea salt
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
for the polenta:
- 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp Maldon or another flaky sea salt
- 2 cups Community Grains Floriani Red Flint Polenta Integrale
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 3 Tbsp mascarpone (or Greek yogurt)
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh herbs (such as basil, chives, or Italian parsley), coarsely chopped
- Start with the polenta. Combine 7 cups of water and the salt in a medium pot and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the polenta and whisk until the polenta starts to thicken and looks like it’s one with the water, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low (the polenta should steam and tremble, but only rarely erupt with bubbles) and cook, stirring every now and again, until the polenta is tender but still coarse in texture, 1 – 1.5 hours. You can slowly cook the polenta for up to 3 hours – the longer you cook it, the smoother the texture.
- Make the kale purée. Put 4 of the garlic cloves in a medium pot, fill it with water, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add enough kosher salt so that the water tastes slightly salty and add the kale, prodding to submerge it. Cook uncovered until the kale is tender and tears easily, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Drain the kale and garlic cloves from the pot and reserve them. When the kale is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can. Roughly chop the kale, the boiled garlic, and the raw garlic.
- Combine the kale, garlic, and Maldon salt in a food processor and pulse for about 45 seconds. Then slowly add the oil and process, stirring once or twice, to a fairly smooth puree. A Vitamix will give you a very smooth puree, but somewhat chunky works well too.
- Make the kale polenta. When the polenta is to your liking, stir in the olive oil, ½ cup of the kale purée, and most of the Parmesan and keep cooking, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more. Take the pot off the heat and gently fold in 2 Tbsp. of the mascarpone (leave little pockets of mascarpone). Top with the remaining mascarpone and Parmesan, generous twists of black pepper, and your favorite herbs (we like fresh basil and chives).