August 19, 2010

Baked Polenta

Unfortunately, it was dark out last night so the photos do not look as lovely as this polenta actually tasted. I baked the polenta to serve as a base for the white beans and spinach, but will post the recipe separately here. Polenta is easy, healthy, fat free, and delicious. I baked and served it in wedges here, but it can also be served in its creamy, unsolidified form immediately after its cooked (and in half the time).

Polenta is a great vehicle to play up or down depending on what it's being served alongside. Stir in generous hunks of mozzarella and fresh basil and you've got a decadent Tuscan side dish. Bake it topped with mozarella cheese and red sauce and you have an Italian casserole, or with refried beans and Pepper Jack for a Mexican dish. It's also wonderful as a side to any meat (chicken or shanks would be delicious choices). 

Regardless of how it's served, I like to mix dried basil into my polenta, as you can see above as the little flecks in the photo. It adds depth, flavor, and a bit of interest to this simple staple.

Baked Polenta: (serves 4-6 as a side)
1 cup polenta (not quick cooking)
4 cups water
1 T. salt
1 T. dried basil

Bring the water and salt to a boil. Slowly add the polenta as you stir. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for approximately 20 minutes. Stir in the basil, (stop here if you want to serve creamy) then pour into a baking dish and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.


  1. This recipe did not work for me as-is. It didn't mention what size baking dish, so I put it in a 8x8 pan. Following the recipe exactly, it was still very creamy after 20 mins in the oven. I upped the temperature to 400 and it needed another good 20 minutes in there to be firm and golden on top. I added chopped jalapenos to mine to serve as a side dish for chili and it was very good when it was finally done. Any ideas on what went wrong on my end? Wrong pan size?

  2. Hi Molly, I'm glad you tried the recipe but I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. It does sound like the entire thing simply needed more cooking time in your oven, as temperatures and ovens can definitely vary. I've made recipes where I've had to add on a half hour to the cooking time and it's definitely frustrating. One way around this next time would be to reduce the water amount suggested in the recipe to 3 cups so you already have a thicker polenta to begin with. This may help it solidify faster.



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