For this polenta casserole and all other polenta dishes, please ignore those insipid cooked polenta rolls you find in the supermarket: Making the polenta base takes minutes, and is the bulk of the work for this delicious dish, which will serve a good dozen guests! Polenta Casserole au Gratin just means it is topped with a crust: Yum!
This is only one of the wonderful polenta possibilities: You will love to explore them, as it is not only delicious but very nutritious, and gluten-free to boot. You can:
- Eat the polenta as is, hot and un-assembled (in other words, only the first step of the recipe) as the grain for a main course.
- Thin it with a little water, garlic and minced basil, maybe a couple diced tomatoes for a great soup
- Cut the cooled polenta in cubes or triangles and put it right under your broiler flame
- Make other fillings: Roasted diced vegetables (mushrooms, eggplant, red pepper, fennel, artichoke hearts, etc…..
- Make it dairy-free. Cook it in water or dairy-free milk, and/or substitute some white wine for some of the water or milk.
- 9 cups milk, low-fat OK
- A few drops olive oil
- Salt to taste (remember the cheese is salty, so very little please)
- 3 cups coarse cornmeal
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or other strong cheese
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 cup basil leaves, packed
- 1 large red onion
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 5 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- Good pinch dried pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, gluten-free OK
- 3 tablespoons butter
Boil milk, oil, and salt in a large pot. Add the cornmeal and stir until thick. This should take about ten minutes. Stir in the cheese. Pour the mixture into a greased cookie sheet, in a layer no more than half an inch thick. You might fill one and a half cookie sheets.
Let the polenta cool.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
While the polenta is cooling, make the sauce: in a food processor, coarsely grind the garlic, basil and onion. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining sauce ingredients.
Grease an 11-by-14-inch lasagna pan. Make one layer polenta, making sure you leave no blank spaces. Add half the sauce. Repeat: one layer polenta, one layer sauce. Bake the casserole for about 45 minutes, or until the dish looks bubbly and hot. Mix the bread crumbs with the butter, and sprinkle over the dish. Bake another 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting into squares.