Polenta Casserole with Fontina and Tomato Sauce


Baked polenta with fontina cheese, basil and tomato sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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?

Polenta Casserole with Fontina and Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6.

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.

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Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, from the Spannocchia farm in Tuscany.


Mexican polenta casserole from Kath Eats Real Food

Spinach and cheese polenta casserole from Champaign Taste

Sausage and summer vegetable casserole with cheesy polenta from Bitchn Camero

Polenta pizza from Susan at FatFree Vegan Kitchen

Cheesy polenta and egg casserole from Culinary in the Country

Showing 4 of 20 Comments / Reviews

  • Al in SoCal

    Can I use ground beef / turkey in this recipe? I think I would like it, but my carnivorous family might not approve.

    Hi Al, I would suggest adding Italian sausage, browning it first of course. ~Elise

  • nikkipolani

    Do you think I could refrigerate it after step 3 and heat the caserole the next day?

  • Kristi

    YUM! I’ve made a dish similar to this – it’s in the 1995 edition of the Joy of Cooking. Nikki, if I remember correctly, that recipe does call for the polenta to be refrigerated instead of letting it stand at room temperature. I believe it’s just for 30 minutes before the casserole is actually assembled, but I’m sure it would be fine in the fridge overnight too, assembled or not.

  • Lisa

    I make this basic dish once or twice a month. I have found that is is very forgiving & tasty casserole. Sometimes I use meat sauce, and/or add a layer or eggplant or zucchini (slice, bake or broil first), or add any left over cooked meat like cubed/ shredded chicken, turkey or meatloaf. The leftovers are a much coveted lunchbox treat, eaten cold or reheated.

  • James Walsh

    I did a variation on this tonight and it was very good. Thank you for the idea and the inspiration.

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Polenta Casserole with Fontina and Tomato Sauce