Mediterranean Baked Polenta

Ground corn and I are both torn between two culinary worlds: the South and Italy. I often add elements or methods from one to the other in my everyday cooking, and this recipe is no different. This is a recipe that I actually made for breakfast yesterday when I woke up for a hankerin’ (Southern emphasis intended) for a Paula-style grits casserole. After looking up a few recipes, I wanted something with a bit more flavor and cue the grand Italian entrance: olives, red peppers, feta, pesto, and more! 

The best thing about this dish is its versatility. Polenta is great hot or cold. You can let it chill in the fridge and then fry it for a crispy appetizer or grill it and top it with something. I recommend topping this dish with proscuitto to keep it simple. And because I always approve of adding proscuitto – or bacon, if we’re talking Southern again. Buon appetito, ya’ll: 

Mediterranean Baked Polenta

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped (or shredded) yellow squash
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup roasted chicken, chopped
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced
  • Sprinkle of sea salt and pepper
  • appx. 12 finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. each parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups regular grits
  • 1/3 cup pesto
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 4 eggs, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 and grease one large (4 quart) casserole dish (or ramekins for individual serving sizes, if preferred)
  • First, saute on medium heat the first set of ingredients (onion through olives) in a large pot. Start with the onion, garlic, squash, and olive oil to give them a head start. Add the remaining ingredients once the squash is cooked as desired. 

  • Bring the seasonings and broth to a boil. 
  • Stir in the grits and whisk until completely combined (seriously, do this or you’ll have clumpy old porridge, which is much less fabulous than Mediterranean Baked Polenta, isn’t it?). I wish my dogs had opposable thumbs so they could take over for these phases. I am so weak that 8 to 10 minutes of whisking will actually make my muscles sored. Alas, they don’t. Whisk phase, plus non-helpful dogs: 

  • Reduce heat to low and simmer until the grits thicken, about 8 to 10 minutes. 
  • Gradually stir in the remaining ingredients, combining well. 
  • Transfer to your dish for baking (and top with just a bit of extra cheese, for good measure) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes (for the large dish) or 15 to 20 minutes for the individual ramekins. 
I had this for breakfast and topped it with extra parmesan and a soft-fried egg. It was divine. 

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