Polenta Casserole with Fontina and Tomato Sauce
We came across this baked polenta recipe in an old Bon Appetit issue, and used up the last of our garden basil to make it. The recipe comes from an article on a unique Tuscan farm, Spannocchia, a working farm “eco” retreat, noted for its artisanal salumi. The casserole was delicious, and the farm looks even more intriguing. I love the idea of being able to hang out in a Tuscan kitchen taking cooking classes for vacation, don’t you?
If fresh basil isn't available, make the sauce with canned whole tomatoes that have basil included. Muir Glen has an excellent product that we often use. If you prefer mozzarella over fontina, feel free to substitute.
- 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)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup polenta, or coarse cornmeal
- 2 cups grated Fontina cheese
1 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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until completely heated through, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.