CNYEats A Taste of Utica Italian Polenta Casserole

by Joanne on March 13, 2011

I was curious about this weeks Taste of Utica recipe so I made a vegetarian version using dark red kidney beans and for Ted, I made the original version using ground beef, found on page 110 of our book

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Neither Ted nor I have ever been fond of polenta so this was going to be a true test of whether a Utica recipe can take a not so favorite recipe and use it in a dish that turns out a success.

Polenta (poh-LEHN-tah) is Italian for cornmeal.  The cornmeal is cooked with liquid to form a soft mass. It may be eaten hot or cold, cut into squares, grilled, or fried.

Italian Style Polenta Casserole by Sherry

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Polenta:

  • 1 cup enriched cornmeal
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups boiling water

In a small bowl, combine the first 3 ingredients.  In a large saucepan, bring the 3 cups water to a rapid boil.  Gradually stir in cornmeal mixture, stirring constantly until thickened.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and pour into an ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan.  Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground beef OR for Vegetarian Version use 27 oz (large) can of Dark Red Kidney Beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 16 oz can tomatoes
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano leaves (for fresh, use about 1 TBS chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp basil leaves (for fresh, use about 1/2 to 1 TBS (depending on your preference for basil, chopped)
  • few twists of fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Brown the meat (if using beans, simply start with the cooking the onions, etc.) onion, pepper, and garlic in a large skillet.  Drain any fat.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, salt, oregano, basil, pepper AND beans if making the Vegetarian version. Mix well.  Heat to a boil.

Reduce heat to simmer and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally,.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut the polenta into 8 pieces.

Place 4 pieces on the bottom of an ungreased 8” square baking dish, spoon HALF of the meat sauce (or bean sauce) over and around the polenta.

Sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese on top.  Place the remaining polenta slices over the cheese.  Spoon the remaining sauce over and around the polenta and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. 

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The result:  Utica does it again! This recipe is a winner. The bean sauce with the polenta was a complete hit for me and Ted was absolutely thrilled with the ground beef sauce.  This is one great way to enjoy polenta if you’ve never quite grasp the taste of it before.  Delish!

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On page 113, there is another recipe to enjoy:  Polenta with Tomato Sauce by Sherry – serves 6

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp.
  • 1/8 tsp pepper + 1/2 tsp
  • 1 cup grated Swiss Cheese
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 2 TBS water
  • 1 tsp vineger

Combine cornmeal and milk in a pan and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Stir frequently.  Boil for 3 minutes then remove from heat.  Beat in the egg, stir in the grated cheese, add the oil, salt and pepper.

Spread the mixture in a 10 x 6 x 1 1/2 inch dish.  Sprinkle with half of the Swiss cheese.  Combine the garlic, onion, tomato soup, water, vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and the rest of the Swiss cheese. Pour over the top.  Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Next week,  we have Sausage and Polenta  hitting our table, PLUS two other special polenta recipes.  It’s going to be interesting!

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