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!
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.
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.**
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.
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!
*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.