Monday, January 8, 2018

Magazine Monday #2: Instant Pot Polenta Cacio e Pepe

I bought an Instant Pot a couple of years ago because I was seeing them everywhere, and they were getting rave reviews.  Before Christmas one year, I saw one for the lowest price I'd seen them, so I snatched it up.

And then it sat.

For over a year.

I didn't know what to do with it.  I'd never used a pressure cooker before (which is essentially what the Instant Pot's main purpose is), and the pressure cookers I remembered from my childhood scared the crap out of me.

I finally busted it out when Dennis mentioned that he'd really like a pot roast, and I realized I could make a pot roast in about an hour rather than the several hours they traditionally took to make if I used the Instant Pot.  In this Instagram post, you can see the first time I released the steam on a pressure cooker (Uh, if you use an Instant Pot, don't do it like this, because the steam escaping also has fat in it, and you'll have grime all over everything in your house if you don't put a towel or something on the escaping steam), and in this post, you can see the 4th pot roast I made in a month because it was so good.

Anyway, The Instant Pot is super cool.  I don't know if I'd call myself a member of the Instant Pot cult, but it's very handy for making foods that usually take a ton of time more quickly.

When I found this recipe for Polenta Cacio e Pepe (polenta with cheese and pepper), I marked it as one to make before I realized that it called for the polenta to be made in a pressure cooker...and then after paging through my Instant Pot instruction guide, I realized the thing has a button on it specifically for "porridge."  Bingo!

Also, I made this for dinner, and as we were eating it, Dennis, who is vehemently anti-savory grits said, "This is grits."  I said it wasn't, but then we determined polenta and grits are basically the same thing, and I have the distinction of making the first savory grits-like dish Dennis has ever liked.  50 points to Slytherin!

The original recipe does not call for sausage, but I thought it would be a nice addition, and that's why, if you ever look at my recipe labels, I have this one marked as Vegetarian.  It could be vegetarian, and the original recipe is's just that my modifications made it not so much vegetarian.

If you don't have an Instant Pot, just make the polenta the old-fashioned way!

This is a great wintertime warm, filling meal, by the way, so it felt like a good January recipe.

Polenta Cacio e Pepe with Italian Sausage
Makes 4 servings


1 cup polenta (not quick-cooking)
4 cups beef broth (or water)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
Kosher Salt & Pepper
1 package hot Italian sausage (optional, but recommended)

Press the Saute button on the Instant Pot and add the broth (or water).

Combine the polenta, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

When the liquid begins to simmer, pour in the polenta a little at a time while stirring to avoid clumping.

Put the lid on the Instant Pot and make sure the valve is set to Sealing.

Press the Keep Warm/Cancel button, then press the Porridge button.  Adjust the time to 8 minutes.

(If you're using the Italian sausage, start cooking it at this point and cook through until the temperature in the center of each sausage is at least 145°F.)  Slice the sausages.

Once the 8 minutes run out, leave the Instant Pot on Keep Warm for 15 minutes to allow most of the pressure to subside on its own, then turn the valve to Venting.

Remove the lid and stir in the butter, both cheeses, and salt to taste until well-combined.

Put the polenta into bowls and top with more Parmesan cheese, pepper, and sausage.

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