Baked Polenta for the Win

Dear Caitlin,

Remember when you visited us and I said I had a recipe to post?

I’d like to use some hyperbole, like, “It took forever for me to post this recipe.”  However, that doesn’t do the delay justice.  It has actually taken me weeks to get this post on the website.  I’d say I’ve been busy, but, truthfully, I’ve just been watching a lot of “Scandal.”  Don’t start.  You won’t be able to stop.

It’s a particular shame, because you could have been making this in the intervening weeks.  This recipe is a weeknight win.  It’s tasty and elegant, but healthful and quick.


It also looks gorgeous when paired with a green salad.  Because colors.  I would even go so far as to say – Because spring colors.

Red, yellow, green.  This is basically a primary color easter egg in a meal, yet more appetizing.


I’d like to use home-grown basil in this recipe sometime soon, but, unfortunately, my basil is currently this size.*


Gratuitous dog photo included for scale.


Combine polenta, water, olive oil, and then watch Scandal while it bakes.


Chick peas dry.  This is my “while-I’m-at-work” method.


Sauce cooks up.


Chick peas get spiced before they get crisped.**

* Actually, it’s grown a little in the last couple of weeks, but it’s still not harvest-worthy.

** There are lyrics for a Top-40 song here.  I just know it.



Modified (and veganized) from Joy the Baker‘s Baked Polenta with Tomato and Basil.

Baked Polenta
1 Cup Polenta (Corn Grits)
4 Cups Water
1 teaspoon Salt
Dash Red Pepper
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided

Red Sauce
1 Tablespoon Basil-in-a-Tube* (2 Tablespoons fresh chopped)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 28-ounce Can Whole Tomatoes with Juices
1 Onion, Halved
1 Tablespoon Red Wine
Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
Dash Red Pepper

Crispy Chick Peas
1 15-ounce Can Chickpeas
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Salt

(1)  In advance:  Dry chickpeas.  I do this, as pictured above, by leaving them in a mesh strainer in the fridge.  It can be done last minute with a salad spinner, which I don’t own, or paper towels and a lot of love.

(2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

(3) Combine polenta, water, salt, red pepper to taste, and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in an “x8” baking pan.  Bake for 45 minutes.

(4)  After 45 minutes, remove pan and add remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  Stir polenta.  Respread evenly and bake for 15 minutes more, or, until polenta is set in the middle (doesn’t move when you shake it).

(5) While polenta bakes, make red sauce and chickpeas.

(6) To make red sauce, combine all ingredients in a pot or dutch oven.  Cover and cook over low heat for thirty minutes.

(7) After thirty minutes, use a wooden spoon to break apart any tomatoes that have not disintegrated.

(8) Remove onion halves with a slotted spoon.  The onion is still reusable for stock later!

(9) To make chickpeas, prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

(10) Toss chickpeas with olive oil and spices.  Spread the chick peas evenly across the pan.  Even spread = Even bake.

(11) Bake chickpeas for 15 minutes.  This can be done while the polenta bakes.  After 15 minutes, toss chickpeas and respread evenly.

(12) Check chick peas every few minutes – they should be done at around 30 minutes, but bake time will depend on how dry the chickpeas were when they went in.  They may brown as they crisp, but catch them before they blacken.

(13) Top polenta with red sauce and chick peas.  Crazy good.


*Basil in a tube is controversial, I know.  And while I can’t wait to start eating homegrown basil, I just can’t pass up something as economical as basil in a tube.


One thought on “Baked Polenta for the Win

  1. Kaki, I made this this past weekend! Sooo good. Although my unreliable oven meant the chickpeas weren’t as crispy as I’d like, they still lent the necessary textural contrast to the polenta. My polenta also took longer to bake than yours, but, again, that’s just my oven for you.

    My favorite part though is the sauce! It really simmers away and ends up just luscious, doesn’t it. And then the hit of basil… I think it’ll be my new go-to red sauce, it was just that good.

    Thanks for sharing this one!

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