It is amazing how polenta keeps reinventing itself. Originally the despised porridge of a desperately poor northern Italian peasantry, it appeared in restaurants in the 1980s as a thin, grilled triangle or as a creamy base for elegant food. I can never make enough of these heavenly bites, crisp and golden on the outside and soft inside. Everyone adores them. You can make the polenta the day before, then cut it into cubes and roast them just before serving. My son Simon has adopted these as a side dish for, say, sausages, in which case the cubes should be cut a little bigger.
- Line an 8 x 12-inch baking pan with foil – if you have a larger pan, line it with foil that you can fold up to contain the polenta in a layer about 1 inch thick. Brush with oil.
- Bring the water and salt to a boil in a very large saucepan. Pour in the polenta, whisking vigorously. When it comes back to a boil, lower the heat and continue to stir with the whisk for 3 minutes, making sure that no lumps form. It will gurgle and splatter, so you might need to put a cloth around your hand. Add both cheeses, the rosemary, and some pepper and whisk well to make sure the cheese melts evenly. Cover the pan and cook over very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour the polenta into the prepared pan, let it cool, then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Half an hour before serving, preheat the oven to 475°F.
- Cut the polenta into cubes with a sharp knife. Pour the 1/4 cup / 60ml oil into another, larger, baking dish or roasting pan, and tip the polenta cubes into it, then turn them in the oil to coat on all sides. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until nicely crisp and golden, turning them over once. Serve hot.