Caramelized Cabbage on Creamy Polenta


2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. chopped pancetta
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sprig rosemary, chopped
2 lb. green, white, or Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
2 tsp. salt; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 3 Tbs. dry white wine (or water); more if needed
A few drops balsamic vinegar
1 cup medium-coarse cornmeal, preferably organic stone-ground
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
2 oz. finely grated Asiago or Pecorino Romano


Prepare the cabbage:

Heat the 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil in a wide, deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta, garlic, and rosemary and sauté until the pancetta and garlic soften, about 4 minutes. Add the cabbage, 1/2 tsp. of the salt, the pepper, wine, and 1/4 cup water; toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 1 hour, adding a little more water or white wine whenever the cabbage seems too dry or begins to brown too fast, checking about every 5 minutes (the cabbage should stew slowly and brown lightly). After about 1 hour, uncover and cook, stirring, until the cabbage is meltingly tender, lightly caramelized, medium brown, and somewhat dry to the touch, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, taste, and adjust seasonings.

Meanwhile, prepare the polenta:

Heat the oven to 350°F. In an oiled 3-qt. nonstick ovenproof skillet, combine the cornmeal, 4 cups water, the 1/2 tsp. olive oil, and the remaining 1-1/2 tsp. salt; stir briefly. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, give the polenta a good stir, and return the pan to the oven to bake another 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and half of the cheese. Pour the polenta into a greased 9-inch heatproof dish, cover evenly with the cabbage, and scatter the remaining cheese on top. Bake until the tips of the cabbage are brown and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.