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Clams and polenta need nothing more than a spicy tomato sauce and hungry dinner guests.

Savor the Silver Coast of Tuscany with Acquacotta, the new cookbook from food writer and blogger Emiko Davies. This is one culinary region where tradition reigns supreme — and believe us, it ain’t broke and don’t need fixing. Learn the techniques and recipes from this magnificent food culture, like this vongole e polenta, and use them to freshen up your own repertoire. 

This recipe calls for a creamy, pillowy polenta base, made with fioretto or fine-round cornmeal. Much like fluffy mashed potatoes, this starchy, comforting staple needs love and care (and the right seasoning) for a good result. It takes a bit of time, but if you’re at the stove anyway, checking on the tomato sauce and preparing these clams, you won’t even notice having to give the polenta a stir every 4–5 minutes.

Polenta should be well salted, but for some good seafood flavour you can add some grated bottarga to the polenta instead of salt.

Polenta Cooking Techniques

There are some brilliant shortcuts for cooking polenta. Italian food writer Anna del Conte has a technique where, after 10 minutes of stirring the polenta in a pot on the stove top, she transfers it to a buttered ovenproof dish and bakes it, covered, for 1 hour. While the top retains a crust (much like the crust that forms around the pot during stove top cooking), it protects the soft polenta underneath. In her book Simply Ancient Grains, Maria Speck suggests another solution that only requires remembering to start soaking ahead of time. Pour boiling water over the dry polenta and cover it with plastic wrap, ensuring that the plastic is touching the entire surface so that it doesn’t develop a skin. Let it sit for 8–12 hours (or even 2 days in the fridge). Then, when ready to cook, add more water, bring it to a simmer and cook, while stirring, for 10–12 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from Acquacotta