Monday, February 1, 2010

Crispy Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce

This recipe jumped out at me from a recent email I received from Epicurious, and I remembered originally seeing it in Bon Appetit a month ago. I love polenta, but prefer it when it's not really soft. Crispy, pan-fried polenta appeals to me much more than the traditional bowl of cornmeal mush! I also liked the idea of trying a new tomato sauce recipe, with pine nuts and some spice to change things up. I loved this meal! We had it for dinner one night, but it could have been a great recipe to serve to guests, with a vegetarian and meat sauce to serve with the polenta. 

I made the sauce almost exactly as the recipe was written, and was very pleased with the results. I did add more red pepper flakes, for just a little more spice. I also skipped the fennel seeds, just because I didn't have any on hand.  I made a double batch, and used some for the lasagna I made a couple days later. I still had some sauce left over to freeze, so there is another easy pasta dinner in our future. 

You can find the original polenta recipe here. It seemed far more complicated than it needed to be, though, so here is what I did instead. First, I buttered a 9 x 13 inch pyrex dish. I bought a box on instant polenta, and followed the package directions to cook it. It thickens up really quickly, and then I spread it in the baking dish. I used a spatula to spread the polenta out, then let it cool. Once it was cool, it was very easy to cut into squares.  If you're making this for multiple people, you can go ahead and fry it all up according to the directions below. Or, if you're only eating some of the polenta, I would recommend just frying as much as you're planning to eat, and putting the rest back in the fridge. Then it'll be nice and crispy each time you make a new batch!

To cook the polenta, follow these directions from the original recipe.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut polenta lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 6 squares. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add polenta squares. Sauté until crisp and beginning to color, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer polenta to small baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining polenta, adding oil to skillet as needed.

Divide polenta among plates. Top with warm Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired.

Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce

* 4 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree (from two 28-ounce cans), divided
* 1/4 cup pine nuts
* 4 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
* 4 large garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (finely crushed in plastic bag)
* 3/8 teaspoon (or more) dried crushed red pepper
* 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil, divided
* 1/3 cup dry white wine
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano

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Freshly ground black pepper Place 1 cup crushed 
tomatoes in blender. Add pine nuts and blend until very smooth, about 1 minute.

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, fennel seeds, and 3/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper. Sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons chopped basil, wine, and oregano. Scrape in tomato mixture from blender and stir to combine. Simmer sauce 
until flavors blend, 5 to 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more dried crushed red pepper, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.

Rewarm sauce. Mix in remaining chopped basil.

I served the polenta with roasted cauliflower. I tossed cauliflower florets with olive oil and Tuscan Seasoning from the Spice House, then roasted at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes. 


KBarr said...

I've been craving polenta and this looks delish! You inspired me--gonna try it this weekend :)

Laura in Paris said...

I have to try polenta again ... I hated it when I was a child and keep on saying that I have to try it differently ... maybe your recipe will help!

doggybloggy said...

I love polenta anyway I can get it -but what really caught my eye was the roasted cauliflower...