Polenta Casserole with Fontina and Tomato Sauce

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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

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  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

polenta-casserole-2.jpg

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.

Links:

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 19 Comments

  • Kathleen O'Connor

    Hi all!

    I’m a college student so I went to quick route for this recipe. As wonderful as homemade polenta sounds, I had a tube of pre-cooked polenta in the cabinet so I used that. I mushed it up before hand so that I could sprinkle it into the casserole and pretend it did not come from a tube.

    I didn’t wait 2 hours after I assembled it. (I was lazy.) The layers blended together a bit, so it wasn’t pretty like the picture, but it tasted great anyways!

    I also needed to get rid of some romana tomatoes and zucchini. I sliced them both up and sprinkled them on top with a little extra mozzarella.

    It was a pretty easy dish, and didn’t take that long (considering I skipped making the polenta and didn’t let it sit for 2 hours). I now have food for an entire week!

    Kathleen

  • Kathy

    I tried making the Monday-night version of this recipe tonight. I whipped up the polenta first, then refrigerated it while I prepared the rest. It was close to room temp and feeling “set” when I pulled it out of the fridge. After baking and cooling, everything was very tasty, but also very runny. Thought I’d post this for those who cook late like me — save this for the weekend. ;-)

  • Kim

    I made this the other night and added some cooked hamburger. I also used cornmeal. I noticed that when using cornmeal you have to bake it and refrigerate it overnight to let the cornmeal set up otherwise it is runny. I, myself, think this would be kind of bland without adding some ground beef. We thought this was sooooo good!

  • tkh

    Could you use cornmeal instead?

    You could use coarse cornmeal. ~Elise

  • Kim

    I wonder if you could use masa harina instead of the polenta?

    Interesting idea. It does have a slightly different taste. Might work better with Mexican cheeses. ~Elise

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