Recipe of the Month – Baked Polenta Casserole
Polenta (a golden-yellow, ground grain made from corn) has been a staple of Italian cuisine since the 16th century when corn was introduced in Europe. Once considered peasant’s food, Polenta can now be found on celebrity chef shows, the menus of fine dining restaurants, and the tables of home cooks around the world. This is a versatile grain that can be prepared creamy or firm and served as a side dish or a main dish. Savor it cover a long, relaxed dinner with a bottle of your Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 1/2 tablespoons dry oregano)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta
2 cups Fontina cheese, grated
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until onions are translucent and carrots are just tender, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the tomatoes and their juice (breaking up by hand as they are added), 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 and 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. reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until thick and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Brush an 8 -inch square baking dish with olive oil. Spread one-third 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 over to 350 F. bake until completely heated through, about 25 minutes. let cool for 10 minutes and serve as a side dish or top with roasted vegetables for a wholesome vegetarian meal.