1 cup polenta (medium grind cornmeal works just great)
4 cups water- 1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter (but no one will scold you if you use more)
1 can (14 oz) of tomatoes (San Marzano if you want to be fancy)
½ of a medium onion (*not* chopped)
red pepper flakes, as much as you like (optional)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (or any salty, hard, iItalian cheese)
basil ribbons for garnish (use your awesome knife skills to chiffonade!)
This lovely recipe is from the lively Carla from Hipcooks Seattle: “When I was growing up, chilly weather meant polenta season! My dad would stand over the stove with a huge wooden spoon and stir and stir and stir and stir for what seemed like forever. When it was finally ready, I would serve myself a heaping spoon of the golden goodness, mesmerized as it spread on my plate. It wasn’t ready until I topped it with Teleme cheese, nothing else! I was a polenta purist! Fast-forward 20 years and I’m a bit more flexible in my ways. Who has time to stand over a stove and stir for an hour? Ta da – baked polenta! The texture is great and it’s so much easier. Throw a batch in the oven and forget about it! I now also top it with a slightly spicy marinara, basil ribbons and Parmesan. I’m excited to share this easy crowd pleaser with you for an impressive, no-fuss dish!”
Preheat oven to 350°F . In an 8×8 pan (or a cast iron skillet), combine water, polenta and salt and stir to combine. The cornmeal will sink to the bottom and the water will look cloudy – that’s ok! Pop into the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove and stir in 2 tbsp butter and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. The polenta is ready when the edges look set and there is a little jiggle in the center. Remove and stir in cheese. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
While polenta is cooking, put tomatoes and their juices into a saucepan with onion (kept as whole as possible – we will want to fish it out later) remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and red pepper flakes. Let simmer until the polenta is finished. Once polenta is out of the oven and cooling, remove the onion from the sauce and season to taste. Top polenta with red sauce, basil, and more cheese then serve straight from the pan. Enjoy!
* This recipe can be made vegan by omitting the cheese and subbing olive oil for the butter. In the absence of cheese, you will likely need to add more salt – as always, taste and adjust until you love your dish