Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce

On my last trip to Italy I went a bit crazy in a local market bringing back lots of delicious food. This included some Truffle Polenta which has laid at the back of the cupboard since then, and was uncovered in a lockdown tidy up.

I found this recipe online, and you won’t be surprised to learn it’s from my favourite chef – Ottolenghi! He recommends it as a side dish, which we had with a nice juicy steak. But the tomato sauce itself would be great with pasta, and there is definitely enough sauce to eat some and freeze some if having as a side. Alternatively, I could have easily just eaten an entire bowl of this for my dinner!

Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce (Serves 4 as a side)

Ingredients

For the sauce

1 Onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges (150g net weight)
150g Cherry Tomatoes
4 tbsp Olive Oil
6 Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
750g Vine Tomatoes, core removed and finely chopped into 1cm dice (seeds and all)
1 tsp Caster Sugar
5g Oregano sprigs (leaves and stalks), plus 1½ tbsp leaves extra to serve (or use basil or parsley instead)
Salt and black pepper

For the polenta

500ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
350ml Whole Milk
60g Unsalted Butter
200g quick-cook Polenta
150g Gruyère, roughly grated

Method

  1. Heat a large saute pan until very hot, add the onion wedges and cook, turning regularly until they are charred on the outside.
  2. Transfer to a plate, then put the cherry tomatoes in the same pan and char until nicely blistered in places.
  3. Transfer to the onion plate, but keep the two separate, and put the pan aside to cool slightly.
  4. Return the pan to a medium-high heat and add the oil and charred onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until slightly softened
  5. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  6. Add the chopped vine tomatoes, sugar, oregano sprigs, 150ml water, a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper.
  7. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the the heat to medium and leave to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have started to break down.
  8. Add the charred tomatoes and cook for seven minutes more, until they’ve started to soften and the sauce has thickened. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  9. To make the polenta, put the stock, milk, 100ml water, half the butter, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a good grind of pepper in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat.
  10. Bring to a gentle simmer, turn the heat to medium-low and pour in the polenta in a slow, steady stream, whisking continuously, until completely incorporated.
  11. Carry on whisking for two to three minutes more, or until the polenta is cooked and the mixture is still quite wet and loose.
  12. Stir in the cheese and remaining butter, then spread out the polenta on a large platter. Spoon the tomato sauce on to the polenta, gently swirling some of it in, top with the extra oregano leaves and serve warm.