Marine News from the Great Lakes

RECIPE: Black Polenta With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Published: Monday, October 29, 2018
By: Fiona Sims

I go to Venice for the bar food. Not the art, which is fabulous, or the palazzos, which are majestic, but the cicchetti. These small bites reign supreme in the bàcari, Venetian bars. It’s where a Venetian goes to drink a spritz (between 6 and 8pm), a blend of Aperol or Campari and three-quarters Prosecco, topped up with a splash of soda water, served over ice with a slice of orange.

And with their spritz, they eat cicchetti. These inventive morsels range from polpettine di carne, meat patties, and fat tramezzini, sandwiches bulging with stuffings such as tuna, egg, and capers, plus lots of interesting things on toasted bread, with each bàcaro boasting its house special – from sea urchin and shredded lettuce to crab and radicchio. It’s the ultimate bar food – so why not borrow a few ideas for the boat?

Bored with bread? Then try polenta. The instant stuff is perfect boat food, both bolstering and a great vehicle for strong flavours. I love it ramped up with squid ink stirred in while it’s cooking (a Venetian thing). It cooks in no time and divvies up into neat little squares that will play piggyback to a host of different ingredients. I’ve chosen sun-dried tomato and mozzarella, but you can add Parma ham, too, or replace the mozzarella with feta cheese, add olives, cooked red peppers, and many more.

Black Polenta With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Makes 9–10 bites


  • 1 cup pre-cooked maize meal or instant polenta
  • 1 ½ tsp squid ink (most fishmongers carry it in little one-ounce packets)
  • salt and pepper
  • 5oz of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 1 package mini/bite-size mozzarella balls
To Serve:
  • cocktail sticks
  • basil leaves (optional)


Bring 2 cups water to boil in a saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the maize meal and the squid ink. Keep stirring over a low heat until it’s nice and thick (about 5 minutes), and then season generously with salt & pepper. Turn out onto a baking tray or chopping board, spread into a rectangle about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick, and leave to cool. Once cool, cut into bite-sized squares and top each with a piece of sun-dried tomato, then a mozzarella ball, and finally a basil leaf, if using, all secured with a cocktail stick. Serve with Prosecco, ideally.

About the Author

Fiona Sims writes about food, drink and travel for many publications from “The Times (of London)” to “Food & Travel,” and “Decanter.” She is the author of four books, including “The Boat Cookbook,” and her most recent, “The Boat Drinks Book,” both published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Excerpted from The Boat Drinks Book: A Different Tipple in Every Port by Fiona Sims. Copyright © Fiona Sims 2017. Published by Adlard Coles, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing. Reprinted with permission.

This article first appeared in the Fall Issue (Sept/Oct) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Recipes

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