This is my rendition of oven polenta, a side dish that I often make to accompany braised meats or ragù. I’ve never thought of serving it on its own–that is, until I went to one of San Francisco’s most famous restaurants! The best part about this oven technique is that there’s none of the splattering and stirring of the stove top version, and once its cooked, it will wait patiently in the oven until you’re ready to eat. Enjoy it with both types of cheese–quality is everything here–mounded on top and stirred in by the spoonful.
Heat the oven to 300°F and bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Whisk the polenta with 1 cup cool water plus the salt in a 2-quart oven-save casserole dish until smooth.
Whisk in the boiling water until the polenta is smooth. Cover the dish with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil and placed in the oven to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. The polenta is done when it swells and pulls away from the sides of the dish when stirred.
Stir in the butter and keep warm until ready to serve. (If the polenta gets too stiff while sitting, stir in hot water 2 tablespoons at a time until it smooths out once again.)
To serve, dollop the polenta into warmed serving dishes. Place a large spoonful (about 2 tablespoons) of mascarpone into the center. Crumble up the parmesan shavings and sprinkle them generously over the mascarpone.