My husband loves cornbread so he was easy enough to convince to try Polenta. As I tried to explain it to him, he had his doubts, but he's always willing to try something new. I love that it is seared with the crispy edges covered with sauce, it's all texture and flavor. No doubt this would be even easier to prepare with instant polenta but I am a purest at heart. As everyone that knows me can attest, I love to use every gadget, piece of cookware or equipment I can. The sauce was able to simmer throughout the baking process of the polenta. The sauce can easily be used on bruscetta for an appetizer or over pasta for a quick week night dinner, very versatile. Enjoy!
Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce with Pan Seared Polenta adapted from Bon Appetite January 2010
8 C water
5 T. (or more) olive oil, divided
2 tsp sea salt
2 C Polenta
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce:4 1/2 C canned crushed tomatoes with added puree (from two 28 oz cans), divided
1/4 C pine nuts, toasted
3/4 C finely chopped onion
6 large cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/2 C roasted red pepper, chopped
1/2 C finely chopped fresh basil, divided
1/3 C dry white wine
1 tsp dried oregano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish on rimmed baking sheet. Combine 8 cups water, 3 T olive oil and 2 tsp sea salt in dish. Gradually mix in polenta.
Place baking sheet with polenta in oven. Bake polenta 1 hour. Add pepper and stir to blend. Bake 20 minutes. Stir again and spread evenly. Bake until polenta is very thick, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven, press polenta evenly and allow to cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours (polenta will become firm). DO AHEAD: can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; chill.
Divide polenta among plates. Top with warm Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan-Reggiano cheese.
Place 1 C crushed tomatoes in food processor. Add toasted pine nuts and blend until very smooth. Heat oil in heavy pot over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining crushed tomatoes, 2 T chopped basil, wine and oregano. Scrape tomato mixture from processor and add roasted red pepper, stir to combine. Simmer sauce until flavors blend. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more dried crushed red pepper if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and chill. Rewarm sauce. Mix in remaining chopped basil.
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