Pan-Seared Polenta with Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce

This meat-free main is perfect for a healthful, Mediterranean-inspired dinner party. This recipe comes from the Modern Vegetarian Party menu.

8 SERVINGS

Recipe by Kate and Scott Fogarty

Photograph by Brian Finke

January 2010

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons (or more) olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (click for recipe)
  • Fresh basil sprigs (for garnish; optional)

PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish on rimmed baking sheet. Combine 8 cups water, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 teaspoons 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. Cool polenta to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours (polenta will become firm). Using metal spatula, press polenta all over to even thickness. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; chill.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut polenta lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 6 squares. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add polenta squares. Sauté until crisp and beginning to color, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer polenta to small baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining polenta, adding oil to skillet as needed.
  • Divide polenta among plates. Top with warm Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired.
  • WHAT TO DRINK

    A medium-bodied red Italian wine is great with the spicy sauce. One to try: Montresor NV "Il Veronese" Valpolicella ($14), a lovely red blend with dried fruit flavors and vanilla notes.