Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Polenta Casserole

This was a wonderful comfort food to make when we had guests (shout out to Jamie and Chria!) staying with us. It also made a lot. Perfect for a 4-adult dinner, and 2-3 leftover lunches the next day. Was also a fairly fast supper to whip up on a weeknight - takes about 20 minutes of prep/cooking, and then 30 minutes to bake. You have dinner on the table in less than an hour. Serve with a salad, and you're doing pretty darn good!

Now that I've made polenta a couple of times, it also doesn't seem so scary. That may sound silly to some of you, but polenta never seemed 'easy' to make. If you've thought the same thing and have yet to try it, never fear. If I can do it, so can you! The only trick is to add the polenta to your water in a slow, steady stream while you are whisking it. Otherwise, you get clumps. Also, you might not have to do this, but while it's cooking, I usually stir it almost constantly to avoid burning it on the bottom.

If you like Italian pastas and tomato based foods, I definitely recommend this recipe - filling, tasty and easy.

Polenta Casserole with Fontina and Tomato Sauce
from Simply Recipes

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (with basil if you have it)- I used canned crushed tomatoes with basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley - I omitted this, didn't have it
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil - I used 1 tablespoon dried basil
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta, or coarse cornmeal
2 cups grated Fontina cheese - I couldn't find Fontina, so I used Gouda

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until onions are translucent and carrots just tender (5-10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the tomatoes and their juice (break up tomatoes as you put them in), parsley, and oregano. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered, until sauce is reduced to about 3 cups. Mix in fresh basil, season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan bring a quart of water to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in the polenta (very important!). Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until thick and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Prepare a baking dish, brush 8x8x2 pyrex or ceramic baking dish with olive oil. Spread 1/3 of the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Pour half of the polenta over the sauce. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Pour another third of the sauce over the cheese. Pour the remaining half of the polenta over the sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, cover with remaining sauce. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until completely heated through, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Want to try other polenta recipes? Check these out:
- Tomato Braised Beans with Polenta
- Zucchini Polenta Tart, from Chocolate & Zucchini
- Creamy Maple Polenta Succotash, from No Recipes
- Rosemary Polenta Triangles, from Gluten-Free Bay

Guten appetit!


Anonymous said...

This looks good! We're on a tight budget and I am always on the hunt for good vegetarian casserole dishes. Please keep them coming!

Laura said...

Thanks! I'm also a fan of casseroles. They tend to make great leftovers, which I love. Enjoy.