Let’s make dinner. The sort of dinner that warms the house with the oven, quiets the mild with a skillet to occasionally stir on the stovetop, and prepared in just enough time to have a glass of wine and empty the dishwasher while dinner warms and simmers. This perfect quiet weeknight dish is easy baked polenta with a simple burst tomato sauce. Cozy on up!
Friends, hi! It’s the time of year I rediscover all the sweaters I’ve had tucked away for most of the year. I could barely look a long sleeve shirt in the face this summer but I’ve fluffed this cutie orange sweater out of the forgotten bottom dresser drawer and I finally feel ready to somehow collect the leaves that have fallen in the backyard. I’ll probably call someone for that tbh but, the sweater has me feeling cozy.
This week we’re bringing back what I thought was a long forgotten recipe here on Joy the Baker. Baked polenta with a simple tomato topping – a blog post recipe that dates back to 2013. A few months ago I started to purge some of the very old, less visited recipes on the site to lighten the load. I deleted the baked polenta recipe really, without a second thought and within a week I had SEVERAL emails in my inbox looking for the recipe.
Ok so – y’all wanted that recipe! Heard. Here’s an updated version of this easy, very creamy polenta. It’s topped with a simple homemade tomato sauce that is also an excellent place to add Italian sausage or a great place to hide any languishing veggies.
Make this cozy dinner exactly what you want it to be. It’s a mostly hands off meal that’s perfect to set on as you’re finishing the rest of the day’s tasks (in our cozy sweaters, of course). I’ll be sure to ask you before I go deleting any more recipes.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this baked polenta dinner:
• polenta which is essentially a coarse cornmeal that bakes up into a creamy porridge
• unsalted butter
• heavy cream though milk is also a great option if that’s what you have on hand
• parmesan cheese, shredded or grated – whatever you prefer
• cherry tomatoes which always seem to be in season and cook down to jammy and delicious
• tomato puree (not paste – that would be quite thick)
• garlic and red pepper flakes
• salt and pepper
• a splash of red wine and a glass for you
• dried oregano and fresh basil
Start by buttering a square baking dish. Add water and stir in the polenta. Now, shimmy the whole pan to a hot oven. The water will want to slosh around but do your best to keep it from spilling over. Set it, and forget it. The polenta will slowly heat and absorb the water.
While the polenta slowly bakes to thick, make the tomato sauce. In a hot pan, add olive oil and whole cherry tomatoes. Let the tomatoes burst before adding tomato puree, a splash of red wine, salt, pepper and oregano. It’s a very simple sauce. If you wanted to add some Italian sausage or sautéed mushrooms, there’s loads of ways to bulk up the sauce especially with any leftover veggies crying for help in the fridge.
When the polenta has mostly thickened, remove it from the oven and stir in butter, cream, and parmesan cheese. The good stuff because fat will add flavor and richness to this easy oven polenta. Just look how soft and spoonable! So dang cozy, right?
Spoon warm tomato sauce over the soft polenta. Top with more parmesan cheese, a good grind of black pepper, and maybe a glug of good olive oil. The kind our Auntie Ina would use. I like to tear fresh basil over the bowl but that’s a fanciness that doesn’t have to meet every bowl.
This is just one of those cozy weeknight dinner that also makes wonderful lunch leftovers the next day.
Be well. Be cozy! Leave any questions and reviews in the comments below! xoPrint
A cozy weeknight dinner that’s easily adaptable. Add veggie or meat sausage. Sprinkle with fresh fresh basil and enjoy curled up on the couch.
For the Polenta:
- Butter to grease pan
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal or polenta cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
For the Tomatoes:
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 (15 ounce can) tomato puree
- Splash of red wine (optional and if you want to open a bottle)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Fresh basil leaves
- Place racks in the upper third and middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a 9×9-inch square baking pan generously with butter. Gently stir water, cornmeal, and salt directly in the greased pan. Carefully place the pan in the middle rack of the oven, hopefully without sloshing any water out of the pan. We’ll bake the polenta for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the butter, cream, and parmesan cheese. Bake another 15 minutes, or until the top is dry and doesn’t jiggle much.
- While the polenta bakes, we’ll bring together the tomatoes. In a medium skillet over medium heat add fresh tomatoes (whole is fine) and olive oil. Occasionally stir the tomatoes around the pan until they begin to burst over the next 15 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir and smash the tomatoes. After the tomatoes are tender and smashed, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another 2 minutes or so.
- Season with a generous pinch of salt. Add the tomato puree, a splash of wine (if you’d like), and oregano. Simmer gently until the polenta comes out of the oven. A few minutes before serving, stir in a few fresh basil leaves, torn.
- To serve, spoon polenta into shallow bowls. Spoon tomato sauce on top. Top with more parmesan cheese and more basil, if you’d like.
Keywords: easy weeknight dinner, polenta, tomatoes, dinner recipe,