Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: This is a traditional dish from the Piedmont region of Italy. Buckwheat groats can be found at select well-stocked markets and health food stores.
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1 cup buckwheat groats
1 small baking potato
4 cups water
4 leeks, white part only, sliced as thin as possible
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried or minced fresh sage
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling on top.
1. Toast buckwheat groats in a heavy skillet, over medium heat, until they are lightly browned and toasty, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When the groats have completely cooled, grind them on a coarse setting to form grits, so they have the consistency of cornmeal. (One cup of coarsely ground groats will yield about 1½ cups of grits.)
2. Place the potato and water in a medium saucepan, cover the pan, and bring the water to a simmer. Cook the potato until it is tender enough to be pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove the potato but keep the water simmering in the pot. Peel and mash the potato in a bowl with a fork, then return the mashed potato to the pot of simmering water.
3. Add the coarsely ground roasted buckwheat grits to the pot. Add one-half teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes very thick, about 15 minutes. (If it is too thick to stir, add a little more water.)
4. While the polenta is cooking, start the sauce: In a large sauté pan, sauté the leeks in the butter until softened, then reduce the heat and add a pinch of salt. Cover and continue to cook the leeks until they are very tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
5. Stir in the cream, sage and a few grinds of pepper. Gently simmer until the cream reduces and thickens to a sauce-like consistency, about 10 minutes. (If the polenta finishes cooking before the sauce is thickened, remove the polenta from heat, cover and set aside until the sauce is ready, stirring the polenta occasionally.) Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as desired.
6. Stir the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano into the polenta. Serve the polenta in a shallow bowl with the sauce spooned over top. Garnish with more Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Each of 8 servings: 277 calories; 5 grams protein; 26 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 60 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 190 mg sodium.