The Best Quick Side Dish You’re Not Making

It goes a little something like this.

I am hungry, and dinner is becoming something of an immediate tangible need as opposed to a future theoretical desire. I am craving something in the comfort food arena, which for me usually means I want carbs that are soft, salty, and creamy. Mashed potatoes, risotto, mac and cheese, creamy polenta, or cheesy grits. All of which require specialty ingredients, plus the one thing I do not have—time.

Easy never tasted so awesome.

Why is it all the best carbs take so long? Boiling and mashing, or stirring till your arm falls off, in a best-case scenario you are looking at a minimum of 35 minutes, and at worst, well over an hour. This can take one beyond hangry and well into seething hunger rage. Because your options are either that you possess the necessary ingredients and will resign yourself to the necessary effort, or you do not and will do the last thing you really want to do, employing the worst phrase in the culinary lexicon: “I’ll just make do.”

WATCH: How To Make Instant Pot Melting Potatoes

Making do? It sucks, conceptually. You will end up stuffing your gullet full of what it doesn’t really want, which might fill you up, but will never address the underlying cravings. It will satiate, but not satisfy. Which means you’ll likely spend the rest of the night poking around in your cupboards for other things to eat in an effort to slake that unfulfilled desire.

And since I have been there and know you have to, I want you to feel seen. I want you to feel heard. But most importantly, I want you to feel satisfied. So, I am here to save you with a wonderful dish that can be made in six minutes.

You ready? Cheesy semolina.

Semolina, which is the durum wheat flour used for fine pastas, is your new best friend for those nights you need a bowl of yum and you need it now.

All you need to make this soul-soothing mash is semolina, liquid, and cheese.

I know. I love you too.

Get the recipe for Cheesy Semolina.

Here’s how it works. Semolina flour isn’t powdery like regular flour. It is almost like tiny little balls the size of grains of sand. And when you cook it in boiling liquid, they expand and soften and make a texture that is halfway between mashed potatoes and polenta. There is a little bit of texture, but mostly just smooth, and it happens so fast you’ll be amazed.

You take the liquid of your choice. It can be milk, or even half and half or cream if you want to be super decadent. It can be broth or stock of any flavor, or even water in a pinch. You’ll need one cup of liquid and ¼ cup of semolina per two people for a rational side dish, or one person with deep and powerful hunger.

Now you need about 2 ounces of cheese. This is up to your taste and what is in your fridge. Want your semolina extra creamy and smooth? Go for a soft cheese like cream cheese, chevre, or even Boursin. A little more texture? Try a grated melting cheese with some backbone, fontina, gruyere, cheddar. Deeper umami? Hit the parmigiano or pecorino.

Cheesy semolina is like a warm hug from a cherished aunt. It’s terrific on its own but can go anywhere mashed potatoes or polenta would go, and it is unique enough to be a fun addition to a dinner party. Whether you are eating it right out of the pot in your lap in your pajamas, or serving it in your best china to guests, this is a perfect dish to have in your arsenal.

Get the recipe for Cheesy Semolina. 

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