Serves 4 to 6
Polenta is the Italian version of grits.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups instant polenta
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- ½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 4 ounces slab bacon, cut into matchsticks
- 1 large head broccoli, stems peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick, head cut into 1-inch florets
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 ounces aged provola, shredded on the coarse holes of a box greater
For the polenta: In a large saucepan, combine 4 cups cold water with the olive oil, bay leaf, and salt. Set the pot over medium heat, and while it comes to a simmer, whisk in the instant polenta in a thin stream until it is all incorporated.
Once the polenta has come to a boil, reduce the heat so just a few bubbles perk at the surface, and cook until thickened and smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. Beat in the butter, then the cheese. Cover, and keep warm while you make the broccoli.
To a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and bacon, and cook until the bacon renders its fat and is crisp on the edges, about 5 minutes.
Push the bacon to the side of the pan, add the broccoli, and season with the salt and red pepper flakes. Drizzle the broccoli with 2 tablespoons water, cover, and let cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the pan seems dry, until the broccoli is very tender, about 10 minutes.
Uncover and reduce away any excess liquid in the pan. Remove garlic. Drizzle the broccoli with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and toss well.
Serve the hot polenta in shallow bowls, with the broccoli mixture on top. Sprinkle with the shredded provola. Serve immediately.