Polenta with Sausage, Peppers, Fennel, and Real California Milk Cheese

This polenta with sausage, peppers, and fennel is outstanding. For so many reasons, if I may add.

To start, I experimented with using Real California Milk queso blanco and dry jack instead of the Italian standards - fontina and parmesan.

The flavors came out even tastier in my opinion because Real California Milk cheeses are where it’s at! Not a bad way to add to the three recommended servings of dairy per day by many trusted health organizations, right? You can read more about that here!

My second bragging right: Adrian and I made the polenta from scratch.

When I mean from scratch, I mean we grew Anasazi corn in our garden last summer and dried it. Seeing that we had some sitting on the shelf in a glass jar, we pondered what we’d do with it THIS time. In the past, we’ve made corn and wheat tortillas, a labor of love, so our goal this time was ease and simplicity.  

“How easy is it to make your own polenta?” we wondered. I found out that it’s easier than it sounds. Simply grind corn kernels to a fine consistency and you’re good to go.

Last but not least, I decided to add acorn squash to boost the nutrition! It worked like a charm. Did I mention that we grew the acorn squash and harvested it in JANUARY? That’s quite unusual for the Northern Hemisphere...

What can I say, it was a special polenta recipe.

You can make your own special polenta by following the recipe below!

Polenta with Sausage, Peppers, Fennel, and Real California Milk Cheese

Time: 1 Hour
Serves 4


12 oz pre-cooked Italian Chicken Sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 red bell pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, quartered, then cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup fennel fronds, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 habaneros, seeded and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups Real California heavy cream
1 1/3 cup fine-ground polenta (not instant)
1/2 cups shredded Real California Milk queso blanco
1/4 cup Real California Milk Dry Jack, grated
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

To Garnish
Grated Real California Milk Dry Jack
Chopped parsley

Set oven rack to the top top position. Preheat broiler.

In a medium bowl, toss the  chicken sausage, bell peppers, shallot, fennel, fennel fronds, habaneros, garlic, olive oil, and sherry vinegar. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Transfer vegetables to a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until softened. Stir vegetables and roast for another 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large pot. Place squash in a steamer basket and steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until soft. Allow to cool slightly and puree squash in a blender with 1/4 cup cold water.

Return squash puree to the pot and add chicken broth, heavy cream, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly stir in the polenta and reduce heat to medium. Continue stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes, until the polenta is tender and creamy.

Stir in queso blanco, dry jack, and nutmeg to the polenta and allow cheese to melt. Season to taste w/kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add polenta to bowls and top with sausage and vegetables. Garnish with dry jack and parsley if desired.

If you loved this recipe, you will love my recipes for  Osso Bucco, Avocado Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, & Pizza Two Ways!



Avocado Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Squash, and Fromage Blanc

You may think that pasta with summer squash doesn’t sound very seasonal. But somehow in the Bay Area, it is! My garden is still growing tomatoes and squash, even if not at a very fast rate.

I was craving this bright pasta, not only because it’s delicious, but I love that the colors are aligned with the holidays. It’s basically a present to anyone’s tummy because, for one thing, the avocado sauce is phenomenal.

If you have time to make this 30-minute pasta during this crazy holiday week, I highly recommend it! If summer squash isn’t available, you can use zucchini.

Pro Tip: Feel free to substitute queso fresco or greek yogurt for fromag blanc.

Avocado Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Squash, and Fromage Blanc

Time: 30 Minutes
Serves 6-8

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 lb small summer squash or zuchinni, quartered vertically, sliced into ¼-inch wide wedges
1 tbsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped
4 tsp garlic, roughly chopped, divided
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup basil or epazote leaves, packed
4 garlic cloves, whole
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1 cup fromage blanc
4 green onions, light and dark green parts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
24 oz fresh pappardelle pasta
Pecorino cheese, for grating

To Garnish
Basil leaves, roughly chopped
Red pepper flakes
Grated pecorino cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add tomatoes, squash, thyme, and 3 tsp garlic to a baking sheet in a single layer. Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil to combine. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Roast vegetables for 25 minutes, turning halfway through, and continue cooking until the tomatoes have burst and the squash is tender.

In a small saucepan, heat ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, basil leaves, garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes over very low heat (below a simmer) for about 20 minutes, until the garlic is golden. Allow basil oil to cool.

Add avocado, fromage blanc, 2 tbsp olive oil, green onions, 1 tsp chopped garlic, lemon juice, ½ lemon zest, and ½ tsp kosher salt to a food processor. Pulse until the sauce is smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pappardelle and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Return pasta to the pot.

To the pasta, gently stir in the avocado sauce, basil oil, and roasted vegetables. Add ¼ cup reserved pasta water at a time if necessary to thin the sauce.

Add pasta to plates and garnish with chopped basil leaves, red pepper flakes, and pecorino cheese.



Zuchetti alla Puttanesca

If you’re ever craving pasta, but trying to watch your waistline, I have the recipe for you!

This Zucchetti alla Puttanesca recipe, a.k.a. Puttanesca with Zucchini Noodles is a low-calorie pasta option! 20 oz of zucchini noodles will only set you back 30 nutritious calories per serving versus 400 calories in 1 lb of spaghetti. 

Are you still following?! That is an insane calorie difference.

Luckily, this spicy puttanesca sauce pairs extremely well with the zoodles. Adding some oil, olives, anchovies, and parmesan cheese bumps up the calories to 400 per serving, which is perfect amount for many of us to stay satisfied!

What’s even more exciting is that I produced my first cooking video! Check out the step-by-step process for Zuchetti alla Puttanesca at my new IGTV channel! Note: the video is best watched on a mobile device!

Zucchetti alla Puttanesca

Inspired by Epicurious
Time: 30 Minutes
Serves 4
1 ¼ lb zucchini (about 5 medium) or ¼ lb store-bought zucchini noodles
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes in puree with basil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved, pitted
2 tbsp anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped, divided
1.25 cups parmesan cheese, grated, divided
Using a spiralizer, cut Zucchini into thick spiral noodles.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, olives, anchovies, and capers. Break up tomatoes up with a spoon and simmer for 15 minutes, until thickened.
Meanwhile, in a separate large skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and cook until Zucchini is soft, but still al dente, about 2-3 minutes. Drain excess water.
Transfer Zucchini to the puttanesca sauce and simmer until combined, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 2 tbsp parsley and 1 cup parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on plates and garnish with additional parmesan cheese and parsley.



Osso Bucco

I’m always looking for flavor when I cook, and this Osso Bucco recipe is no exception! While it takes a bit of time in the kitchen, the recipe itself is quite simple to make! 

Osso Bucco over Risotto alla Milanese

Hands-on Time: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours
Serves 4-6


Osso Bucco
3 (20-oz) osso bucco (veal shanks) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup yellow onions, minced
1/2 cup carrots, grated
1/4 cup celery, grated
2 tbsp garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups  beef broth
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
Parmesan cheese, to garnish

1/4 cup butter, divided
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Marrow extracted from 1/2 lb beef bone marrow bone (See Note)
1.5 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp saffron powder
3/4 cups parmesan cheese, grated

2 tbsp parsley, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp garlic, minced

Preheat the oven to 350F. Season the shanks liberally with salt and pepper on each side. Tie the shanks with butcher’s twine (if available) around the middle of each shank to hold the bones and meat together.

Add flour and 1 tsp pepper to a shallow plate. Dredge shanks in flour, shaking off excess. 

In a large oven-proof skillet or Dutch oven, heat up 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shanks in batches, and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until browned. Set shanks aside.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan with onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, and sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Stir in wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits, and cook for 2-3 minutes. 

Return shanks in an even layer to the pan along with their accumulated juices and pour over chicken broth, beef broth, tomatoes, thyme, and rosemary. Stir in bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Cover skillet and transfer to the oven for 2.5-3 hours, until the shanks are very tender. 

About 45 minutes before the shanks are tender, start to prepare risotto by melting 2 tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and marrow and cook for about 6-8 minutes, until the onions are soft. Stir in rice and cook until slightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring, until the wine has evaporated, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of chicken broth and stir constantly until the broth is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat by adding additional broth, 1 cup at a time, until the risotto is al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in saffron, 2 tbsp butter, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Remove risotto from heat. Cover, and let sit for 3-4 minutes.

When the shanks are tender, return skillet to the stovetop, and set the shanks aside. Remove twine. 

Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Simmer sauce for 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened a desirable consistency. Discard bay leaf.

Prepare gremolata by adding parsley, lemon zest, and garlic to a small bowl. Stir and set aside.

Serve osso bucco over risotto. Spoon over sauce, and garnish with gremolata and parmesan cheese. Spoon out marrow from bones with small spoons if desired, and enjoy!

Note: If your marrow looks very red and hasn’t been pre-soaked, combine 2 tbsp of salt with one quart of water in a small bowl. Soak marrow for 1-2 days, changing out water once or twice a day.

To extract bone marrow, rinse the bones and drain in a colander. Add bones to a medium bowl and fill with warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes until the marrow has loosened. Push the marrow out of each bones with either your thumb (be careful!) or a small spoon.