Fontina Polenta and Easy Marinara

by heidi on March 7, 2013

It sounded like a freight train running into our house. And I thought my dog was dying. 

Fontina Polenta with Easy Marinara Sauce ||

We’ve had a winter that has piled the snow higher in our neighborhood than nearly any other along the benches of the mountains where we live.

This winter has put a toll on the snow shovels, the snow tires and nearly everyone’s patience.

Fontina Polenta with Easy Marinara Sauce ||

With each snowfall the load on our roof gets deeper. And heavier. And with a nearly flat rooftop the snow has nowhere to go. it just. stays. put.

Until it warms up. And then the avalanches begin. And that’s when my dog loses it.


Thank you Erin for having a photo crush on Chewy

Our dog Chewy is a bit of a nervous wreck. It’s in his DNA. The little dude has never been corrected with more than a strongly voiced admonishment. Even though we adopted him at a mere 8 weeks, he refuses to come when called, even when trying to lure him up on the bed for a snuggle, and instead stares you straight in the face with a look of just plain boredom, and walks away. There’s no need for a doorbell since he is a four-legged alarm system, posturing his imposing-bearish-self at the front door, to the back door, and back to the front door whenever anything wanders up or down our street, be it a truck, person or deer. And he’s deathly afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks, eating his way through fences or performing as a nocturnal acrobat as he hovers over our sleeping faces and turns the bed into the vibrating style that normally costs a quarter to get that kind of action.

He’s getting older now. His eyes are beginning to film with cataracts, his escapes from the front door are far less frequent. 90 pounds of a nervous nelly shepherd/chow mix. And we couldn’t adore him more.

Fontina Polenta with Easy Marinara Sauce ||

With the house warming the layer of rooftop snow from below and the warming sun baking it from above, the sheath of snow is quickly turning into a sheath of ice. One foot thick. As the days get warmer and the snow finally begins to melt, massive sheets of snow slide from the roof and crash to the ground in 12-foot lengths and put my little boy into full panic mode.

Two days ago when his head hung low, his pace far slowed and his paws not quite working right I thought he’d had a seizure. Or a stroke. It happened before and I thought we were in the midst of it again. But…This time it lasted longer.

Fontina Polenta with Easy Marinara Sauce ||

And that’s when my husband pointed out the avalanches had been crashing all morning and I just hadn’t noticed. My little boy was scared. But…I think it was probably more than just nerves. And…That’s when I had to admit that sooner or later his time will come just like our first dog Akasha, his adopted mama, who ruled his roost with every snarky bark at his puppiness play and who I’m sure contributed to his aloof behavior far more than anything my husband and I could ever influence.

If there’s one thing that perks the Chew-man up it’s food. That’s how I knew he was on the mend. The following day he was back to being underfoot in the kitchen, waiting for every crumb to fall and breathing on me at every bite as we enjoyed our meal.

Not that it mattered. I’m happy to have him breathe on me for as long as he’s able.

Fontina Polenta with Easy Marinara Sauce ||

Like snowstorms turning into the spring thaw, this recipe is the perfect transition from winter to spring. It still has the markings of  favorite winter-like comfort food staples (cheese, sauce, girth) but is light enough so not to throw you into a food coma ready to burst from fullness. Unless you eat the whole pot. Which you are perfectly entitled to do if you so choose.


I created this recipe for the folks at Wisconsin Cheese and made you all a little video to go along with it. Check out Sara‘s and Ashley‘s videos while you’re here. I’m really enjoying this style of storytelling so you’ll be seeing more of it I’m sure. Thank you to Angie for being my willing cooker.

Wisconsin Fontina Polenta from Wisconsin Cheese Talk on Vimeo.

Don’t forget, Sunday is Daylight Savings in the U.S., set your clocks forward, cook yourself a special meal and please, beware of avalanches.

Fontina Polenta and Easy Marinara

Fontina Polenta and Easy Marinara


For Polenta
2 cups water
2 cups cream
1 cup cornmeal or polenta
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Wisconsin Fontina cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Easy marinara (recipe below) or quality jarred pasta sauce sauce for serving
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
For Easy Marinara
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced


  1. Bring water and cream to a boil in a large saucepan.
  2. For Polenta
  3. Add cornmeal or polenta, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Whisk in kosher salt and pepper. Add grated cheeses, whisking until cheese melts, then add butter and stir in until combined. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.
  5. Serve with prepared marinara sauce and extra grated Parmesan cheese. Top with fresh basil as garnish.
  6. For Easy Marinara
  7. Heat oil in a french skillet over medium high heat and add garlic slices. Cook for 2 minutes or until very lightly browned. Add tomatoes to skillet and season with sugar, red pepper flakes and salt. Break up tomatoes, lower to simmer and cook for about 25 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Add basil, stir and serve.

Related Recipes
Garlic Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp
Spring Greens, Asparagus and Ricotta Pasta
Chicken Nicoise Pasta Salad

Thanks for reading and please keep in touch by subscribing to FoodieCrush and follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterestThis post is in partnership with Wisconsin Cheese and includes affiliate shopping links of which I receive a small percentage of sales to allow me to create new and special content like this for my readers, so thank you for your support. All opinions are my own.


Posted in: entrees,noodles, rice and grains,recipes,salads and sides

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar March 7, 2013 at 5:39 am

Mmm I’m all over this! What a tasty looking dinner!


Cassie | Bake Your Day March 7, 2013 at 7:04 am

What a stunning video, Heidi! I love everything about this dish!


heidi March 7, 2013 at 11:27 am

Thanks Cassie, what can be more fun than cooking and taking shots of cheese? :) Oh, well, eating it of course.


Bev @ Bev Cooks March 7, 2013 at 7:30 am

I love 100% of this. All of it. (not the avalanche)

Oh gosh I want this.


Maria March 7, 2013 at 7:53 am

One of my favorite meals! Love the video too!


Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough March 7, 2013 at 8:25 am

Ohmahgosh, the cheese in the video! Come to mamaaaa.


Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet March 7, 2013 at 9:04 am

I want this for lunch! Fabulous video!


Annalise March 7, 2013 at 9:47 am

I’m seriously thinking about changing my menu plan for tonight. Gorgeous video, gorgeous dish!

But I’m afraid that all of that has been overshadowed by your daylight savings reminder. I almost fell out of my chair. It’s that time already?


Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom March 7, 2013 at 10:02 am

Love this!! and LOVE the video!


Kevin (Closet Cooking) March 7, 2013 at 10:14 am

Nice video!!!


Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking March 7, 2013 at 10:50 am

Simply stunning video! I love the ease and comfort of this food. I hope little Chew-man continues to get lots of snacks to ease his worried doggy mind. Poor guy!


heidi March 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

He’s doing great now, but its just one of those “life” things we all have to start to accept as the inevitable. Thanks Stephanie!


Jen @ Savory Simple March 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

I grew up with two very nervous dogs who were both hilarious and annoying. Chewy is adorable. And this is such a lovely, simple dish. The best way to enjoy polenta.


heidi March 7, 2013 at 11:30 am

Hey Jen, I know what you mean. One thing that does help the nervous dogs is Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic drop you can put in their water. We used it on the rescue dogs that had trauma and it actually works.


JudithQ March 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Hia Heidi…this story…it’s amazing …more please ! today is my 69 th b’day and I’m alone w/ my kitty, Paris. He could be a ‘twin’ in attitude and fears and etc. to your boy Chewe…actually the ‘posture is oh so similar…my life partner is out driving a bus for the school kiddies athletic competitions, he is so sweet…picked me daffodils’ from the garden yea…they are up all over back and front gardens, and placed them nexto bed so they were the 1 st thing I saw when I awoke. …back to YOU. …I’m Italian, and have grown up all my life cooking & being served (since 6 mo. old) Polenta….and I must tell you this recipe, cooking style + serving presentation is outstandingly perfect in every way. Bravo you are the best…along w/ Angie ( is this her at the stove?)….I wanted you to know that your story telling ability is brilliant. please write a children’s book w/ this story in mind…and get it Published. it would help children w/ fears of noise and the unknown immensely…and your boy should be on the cover. I love his ‘Posture”.
thank you for making my birthday special….we never know how and when we will touch another living soul in a positive way, as you did mine today.


heidi March 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Hi Judith! Happy, happy belated birthday! This is honestly the best comment I’ve ever received on the blog. If I were closer I’d bake you a cake and a eat a heaping serving of polenta with you. Your idea about a story book is a good one, kids certainly relate to animals, more than humans most the time. Although I think we adults are pretty much in that round-up too. I’m so thrilled the polenta hits your standards as a real Italian. It’s certainly one of my favorite dishes.

Your last sentence moves me in ways you’ll never know and grateful my little piece of real estate on the web inspires and touches wonderful souls like you. Please keep in touch, I would love to hear more from you.

XOXO, Heidi


JudithQ March 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm

oh, Heidi, I can taste the cake now…thank you for that dream, and the Birthday wishes. John read your story about Chewe, and agrees with me about the book…said you “have it”. now coming from him, that’s a bigger compliment than my Polenta comment. you see he is from London, and a British literary scholar. reads incessantly, and we watch every foreign film we can find..
So not to be too insistent….write this book!
warmly, Judith


Laura (Tutti Dolci) March 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I’ve been craving polenta for weeks…. oh heavens!


Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch March 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Oh my goodness, Heidi! Chewy is so gorgeous!!! Love, love, love him.


Stephie @ Eat Your Heart Out March 7, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Isn’t it funny how some of the biggest dogs can also be the biggest chickens? My aunt and uncle have labradors, and all of them have been big ol’ neurotic chickens! Our little beagles want to take on anything; meanwhile, the labs prefer to hide behind their dad.

You had me at “fontina”. I swear, anything would be good covered in fontina cheese! Yummy.


Sharla March 7, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Oh poor Chewy!! He is beautiful though :)

This dish sounds rich…and yummy!


Holly W March 9, 2013 at 8:48 am

I am in love with this video Heidi. It’s very comforting and makes me want to come over for a bowl. I’ve had polenta on the list of things to make myself, so this might just be where I’ll be starting.
I love your dog’s story as well. He sounds precious.


JulieD March 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Great video!!! I want to eat this polenta dish now!!

And hi to Chewy, he’s so sweet!


Karen March 11, 2013 at 5:43 pm

What a handsome boy you have there! The furry one with a tail, I mean :-)
Warm, cheesy polenta sounds like the perfect thing to comfort on an almost-spring-annoyingly-still-winter day.


natalie @ wee eats March 14, 2013 at 11:58 am

One of my favorite dishes at Cafe Bink is their Bolognese with Polenta, this looks like a delicious home-made alternative to the $15+ dish :)


Jenn@slim-shoppin March 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I just recently tried polenta for the 1st time! I had no idea what I was missing – your recipe and video look great – totally going to try this!


Ina September 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I absolutely love your story that goes with this recipe! Chewy is a very handsome boy indeed! My Weimaraner Mango is also terrified of loud noises…amazing how an 80 pound dog can hide in the smallest of spaces. I have a question regarding the grind (fine, med or course) of the cornmeal you used for this recipe? I’ve cooked polenta several times according to directions, but it always seems to come out grainy, and not smooth like I’ve had it in restaurants. I’m wondering if I was using a grind that is too course, or does it make a difference? I have nearly given up, but just came across this blog and want to give it another try. Any suggestions would be most helpful.


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