Chunky oven-baked tomato sauce + broiled polenta

First, a word of warning: I’m using ‘instant’ (10 minute) polenta here and have never actually cooked with the real stuff as it just isn’t widely available here. And also because I find this one delicious so why mess with a good thing? So please forgive me/don’t send your nonna after me!! I’m just a clueless Canadian after all 😛

And now that that’s out of the way, hello! The sun is shining this morning and it shone all of yesterday (which you’ll have seen if you follow me on Snapchat, @ feastwithsophie! wink wink ), and I feel like all of that vitamin D is making me rather hyper, if you couldn’t tell already. I’ve been playing this song on repeat and I’m showing no signs of stopping, baby!

This oven-baked tomato sauce with eggplant and black olives comes together on a single sheet pan, and is served over hearty broiled polenta for an easy & comforting meal.

Confession: I don’t think I ever really had polenta until I moved here and made it myself. I actually wasn’t particularly interested in preparing it until I saw Ottolenghi’s recipe for mushroom and herb polenta. That dish was like a gateway to ALL THE POLENTA in this kitchen, and I haven’t looked back. (If you haven’t tried it, DO!)

This chunky, oven-baked tomato sauce was quite frankly born out of laziness. I wanted buttery soft eggplant on my polenta, so I was going to need to use the oven, but I also wanted the rich heartiness of salty olives in tomato sauce. And I didn’t want to dirty any more pans.

You can see where I’m going with this.

This oven-baked tomato sauce with eggplant and black olives comes together on a single sheet pan, and is served over hearty broiled polenta for an easy & comforting meal.

The eggplant goes in first, then at about the half-way point when you take out the eggplant to smoosh it down*, you add in the tomatoes and the olives, then let the oven work its magic. Then when the eggplant is soft & starting to brown, and the tomatoes have burst, you simply toss everything together, throw in some basil, and it’s ready to eat! The tomatoes release just enough moisture to create a thick and chunky sauce without totally drowning the eggplant or the polenta.

*True story: all Michelin-starred chefs use this term.**

**Not true.

This oven-baked tomato sauce with eggplant and black olives comes together on a single sheet pan, and is served over hearty broiled polenta for an easy & comforting meal.

This sauce is perfect over stiff, broiled polenta (à la Ottolenghi), as it isn’t wet enough to get in there and soggy up your broiling efforts. There’s enough texture contrast going on to keep this from becoming a savoury porridge, as I find tends to happen with softer polentas & runnier sauces.

This oven-baked tomato sauce with eggplant and black olives comes together on a single sheet pan, and is served over hearty broiled polenta for an easy & comforting meal.

As usual, you should tweak this recipe to your heart’s desire! For example, I’ve blasphemously indicated for the polenta to be cooked ONLY in veggie broth (that’s right, no milk) because that’s the way I like it, but obviously using milk or butter in there would make it even creamier. And as for the sauce, you could throw in some capers or some fresh oregano as well. The world is your oyster!

Chunky oven-baked tomato sauce + broiled polenta

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 2 big portions

Chunky oven-baked tomato sauce + broiled polenta

Ingredients

For the sauce
1 large eggplant, cut into roughly 1 cm-thick pieces
250 g (about 1/2 lb) cherry tomatoes
big handful black olives
2-3 tbsp olive oil
big handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
salt & pepper
For the polenta
125 g (about 3/4 cup) quick-cooking polenta
650 ml vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 225c/435f. Put the diced eggplant into a bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to coat (about 2-3 tbsp) and a big pinch of salt. Lay in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, then pop into the oven for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring the vegetable broth to a simmer over a medium-high heat on the stove. Add in the garlic and the herbs and leave to simmer.
3. After the 15 minutes are up, take out the eggplant and use a spatula to press down on the pieces to help them release any moisture (i.e. smooshing). You can flip the pieces at this point if you want, but I find that a lazy toss with the spatula is more than sufficient! (If you can't press down on the eggplant/if it's not releasing any moisture, add a bit more olive oil and return to the oven for another 5 or so minutes before continuing onto the next step.)
4. In the bowl you used for the eggplant, toss the cherry tomatoes in the remaining oil, then pop them onto the baking sheet along with the black olives. Return the pan to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the eggplant is lovely and soft and buttery, and brown on the edges.
5. Once the veggies are back in the oven, it's time to make the polenta! Add the polenta to the still-simmering broth, then continue to stir, bringing the heat down to low. Keep stirring until the polenta has absorbed the liquid and starts to thicken (about 5-6 minutes in my experience). It should be thick enough to coat your spoon.*
6. Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in about half of the grated parmesan cheese.
7. Once the veggies are ready, remove from the oven and transfer back to the same bowl you used for the eggplant and the tomatoes. Toss in the chopped basil. Season with a pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper.
8. Turn on the broiler/griller. On the baking sheet, spread the polenta into a thick slab (about 1 inch/2 cm thick). Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan.
9. Set under the grill until the top turns a nice light golden brown.
10. Remove from the oven/broiler. Slide onto a cutting board or other surface that hasn't just been in the oven (safety first!), then top with the tomato sauce and sprinkle over a bit more basil, if desired.
11. Serve up by cutting slices with a spatula and transferring to plates. Or eat directly from the slab. No judgement here!

Notes

*You could of course use real polenta here, but if you do make sure you prepare it according to the package instructions. The directions I'm giving here are meant for use with quick-cooking polenta.

http://feastwithsophie.com/index.php/2016/02/16/chunky-oven-baked-tomato-sauce-broiled-polenta/