If there’s one dish that says “winter” to me, it’s polenta. You never used to see it on menus in Italy during the summer months, but now that polenta’s become as ubiquitous as pasta in some restaurants, it wouldn’t surprise me. Still, I reserve it for the colder months when it’s as welcome as a down comforter. In the Italian cultural organization I’m part of, we hold a polenta festa each winter, where people from the community bring all sorts of dishes featuring humble cornmeal, including desserts. This year, I brought a casserole of polenta pasticciata.
If you’re scratching your head at the name, maybe the messy remainders of the casserole above will give you some clue. It’s hard to translate perfectly, but “pasticcio” in Italian means a hodgepodge, or mess, (“un bel pasticcio”, for example, would translate to “a fine mess”) so polenta pasticciata refers to a messy polenta, or one that’s mixed up with a lot of other “stuff.”
Make the polenta ahead of time and spread it out on a cookie sheet or baking pan. Let it cool, then cut into triangles (or squares or any other shape you like – remember, this is a “messy” casserole). Spread some tomato sauce on top, then layer with more polenta and more sauce.
For the record, I have never used commercially prepared tomato sauce. Maybe there are some good ones now, but I’d still rather make my own. (Well, that’s not exactly true. There was that time we went camping and bought a jar of some questionable tomato sauce).
However, my friend Michelle, of Majella Home Cooking, who’s a caterer, also cans 3,500 pounds (yes, that number’s right) of tomato sauce every summer. This is tomato sauce of a whole different category that what you buy in the store. Fortunately, she sells some of her precious jars of tomato sauce, and I bought half a dozen jars to use when I’m in a pinch. You can read about her family’s tradition of making tomato sauce here (and contact her to buy some sauce if you live anywhere near New York City.)
A wonderful dish! I'll have to try preparing polenta in that manner…
mi piace la polenta pasticciata, un abbraccio SILVIA
adoro la polenta pasticciata , è un piatto da mangiare in compagnia accompagnato da un buon vino rosso corposo ! Buon weekend cara Linda !
My husband's favorite comfort food is polenta. He was always the child standing at his Mother's elbow when she made polenta, ready to lick the spoon and pot, after she finished spooning it into their bowls for dinner. 🙂
I've made polenta casseroles before, but I never took the time to dry and cut the polenta into shapes! That looks so pretty! I usually just do layers with the freshly cooked polenta and fillings. I will try making shapes next time I do a casserole like this.
Canning tomatoes is a long hot job–we used to do it with our children when they were younger and at home. We has sort of an assembly line production while making it. That sauce was the very best, and I miss it! I kept all the equipment in case we ever became industrious again to do it again. Maybe when my grandchildren are older we will do it with them to give them those memories.
Linda that looks wonderful and to think as a youngster I used to pooh, pooh polenta when mamma made it. Foolish me. My papa used to like it best when mamma would make a salsa and put it over it. If it was cacciatore, well, he was over the moon. I will enjoy trying your recipe. Grazie!
I love this. You know where I first learned to make it? Not from my grandmother, but – get ready for it – but from Madeleine Kamman. Dig it! Talk about multi-culturalism. This is just so good, so homey, as you note. It is the kind of sit down with a glass of red wine and enjoy the family kind of food. Yours looks great. If only we were neighbors… sigh…
Boy-does this look good and it's the perfect wintry dish.j
I bet it was gobbled up, it looks delicious! We love polenta here, it's perfect in the winter, it's like farina, it makes you all warm and cozy inside. Smart thinking saving some for yourself. I'm a big fan of those canned cherry tomatoes too, they're so good!
Yummy! I'm with you. Nothing warms you up in the winter like polenta, especially the 'messy' kind!
I see polenta replaces pasta …. Worth a try according to the great pictures and my previous experiences with your gorgeous italian receipes !
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