Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce

27 12 2011

As I’m writing this, my boyfriend is stuffing a shirt into a burning fireplace. We are staying at my bosses house all week, looking after his incredibly needy/flaky dog and a mysteriously absent cat. We decided to light a fire, only to discover that the fireplace is stuffed with household trash; the burnable, the probably-non-burnable. All I know is that my boss gave the OK on lighting fires, so I’m blindly praying that none of this stuff is too toxic. This is either very ghetto and incredibly hazardous or totally sustainable. Leaning towards the former…

Speaking of fires, I was very much on the verge of burning this cookbook. I’ve made a few recipes from it and frankly, they have all been flavorless and weak. Cursing these butter-substituting, fat-free nazis, I reluctantly gave the book one last try after Ryan dug it up one day.

And lo and behold, cookbook gets to live another day because of Cheesy Polenta. I haven’t cooked with polenta that much, but when I have, the results have not been too exciting. But this casserole dish fits the texture and taste of polenta perfectly. It soaks up all of the flavorful sauce and matches very well with the mellow Gruyère. Serve with a salad, a side veggie and a good chunk of bread .

New beer reviews are also up! Check out Smuttynose Winter Ale and Ayinger’s Celebrator.

Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Fat-Free Vegetarian

1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups quick-cooking polenta OR one of those round mold packages of pre-cooked polenta that Trader Joes sells
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsps. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-oz cans chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tb. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup Gruyère cheese,

If using quick-cooking polenta: Lightly grease an ovenproof dish and set aside. Line an 11 x 7 in. baking pan with plastic wrap. In a pan, bring 4 cups water to boil with the salt. Pour in the polenta and cook, stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Beat in the paprika and nutmeg, then pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Leave to cool.

If using pre-cooked polenta: cut into 2 inch squares and sprinkle both sides with paprika and nutmeg.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and other spices. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place half the polenta squares in the prepared baking dish. Spoon over half the tomato sauce then sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot.

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