Polenta is one of those cozy, wintry foods that just spell pure comfort to me. Maybe it’s because they remind me of the grits of my childhood, or maybe it’s because they pair so easily with hearty sauces–like wild mushroom or braised rabbit–or a rustic sausage-and-tomato ragu. Polenta in restaurants can easily be a butter- and cheese-laden affair, but in its truest form, it’s just cornmeal, water, and salt. I like adding some Parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil, but you don’t need to overdo it, the flavor is great on its own.

I made this meal last weekend, on a particularly cold Saturday, and channeled the Italian grandmother I never had. Snug and warm in our cozy apartment, with the polenta and the sauce simmering away on the stovetop, and a glass of red wine in hand, everything seemed right with the world. When the cooking was done, I lit some candles, set the table, turned on some jazz, and enjoyed a night in with my man. On a winter's night, there's nowhere I'd rather be.

Oh, one last thing. This dish needs some green and it’s particularly good with either sauteed Swiss Chard or Broccoli Rabe with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins. You can’t go wrong with either. This also makes a fabulous dinner party dish. Make the sauce the day before (the flavors will be even better), then make the polenta and greens just before the party. Your friends will swoon. Enjoy!