Friday, January 17, 2014

Baked Polenta with Tomato and Basil

This was another of my husband's creations. He got thw recipe here from Joy the Baker, and it was one of his simple go-to comfort dishes back in his Chicago days. So he made it for us one night. I had no part in the making, I just came home from work and it was all ready! I know, I am a blessed woman!

Here's a little photo of the makings:

And another of the finished product:

I can't handle the kajillion pictures that Joy includes in her posts, but if you'd like more creative photographic documentation of the process, I shall refer you to her post.

The original recipe:

For the polenta: 

4 cups water
1 cup course ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the Tomato Basil topping:

1 (28oz) can whole and peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and sliced in half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
Parmesan cheese for topping

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In an 8×8-inch baking sheet, or a 2 qt baking dish, stir together water, coarse cornmeal, and salt.  Stir to combine.  The cornmeal will sink to the bottom of the pan and the water will turn a bit cloudy.  Place in the oven to bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and add butter.  Stir until butter is melted.  Return to the oven to bake for 15 minutes.

Polenta will have a dry top and not jiggle when fully baked.  Remove from the oven and stir in red pepper flakes and cheese.  Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

While the polenta bakes, cook the tomato sauce.

In a medium saucepan combine entire can of tomatoes, juice and all.  Add butter and onion halves.  Keep the onion halves in tact, we want to be able to easily remove the onion at the end of cooking.

Place the pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The butter will melt and create glistening beads on top of the tomato sauce.  The whole tomatoes will bread down, but still maintain just a bit of their tomato chunkyness.  The sauce will thicken as it cooks down.  After the sauce has cooked down, remove the onion halves and discard.

Remove from heat and gently spoon onto cooked polenta.  Top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.  Serve warm.

Our thoughts and notes:

As with the Ragu alla bolognese, we did not have San Marzano tomatoes. But the canned whole peeled tomatoes with basil we used seemed to work out well. In the future I'll make note of what brand we used and how we liked it. 

This is a pretty simple and straightforward recipe, and it's comforting and (surprisingly) filling. The only real note we had was that you definitely need to eat it fresh out of the oven. It's best when warm, and polenta does not reheat very well. This recipe says it makes four servings, though it only ended up being three for us- we both ate only this for dinner, and the husband ate it for lunch the next day. 

Buon Appetito!

1 comment:

Linda Boose said...

I know this isn't your favorite source, but here's some good info on canned tomatoes:
Their favorite was Progresso