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Polenta with Mascarpone, Maple Syrup and Toasted Pecans

Polenta, a specialty of northern Italy, is made from cornmeal. It is cooked with water, milk, broth or a mixture of liquids to a soft consistency. Mascarpone, another Italian specialty, is an exceptionally creamy fresh cow’s milk cheese that makes an ideal garnish. Warm maple syrup and crunchy toasted pecans top off this hearty contemporary breakfast dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup 
  • 3 cups water, plus more as needed 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 cup coarse-ground polenta  
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese 
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped 

Directions:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the maple syrup. Keep warm while preparing the polenta.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the 3 cups water and the salt to a boil. In a small bowl, stir together the polenta and milk. Gradually stir the polenta mixture into the boiling water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thick and creamy, about 25 minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup water by the tablespoonful if the polenta begins to stick. (Be careful, as the hot polenta can bubble and spatter.)

Divide the polenta among 4 shallow bowls. Drizzle about 2 Tbs. of the warm maple syrup over the polenta in each bowl. Stir the mascarpone (this thins it slightly) and spoon about 2 Tbs. on top of each portion. Sprinkle with the toasted pecans and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).