When my friend Megan got married, something like 10 years ago now, the caterers served this vegetarian dish at the reception. My mother, whose band was playing, loved it so much she managed to get the recipe from said caterers. They called it “Baked Polenta Veggie Cheese Casserole,” or something like that, but we affectionately call it “Wedding Polenta” for obvious reasons.
It’s kind of like polenta lasagna, in that the creamy polenta forms the base layer, with roasted veggies on top and then the tomato sauce on top of that.
I’m entering all the details I got from my mom, which she got from the caterers, and then I’ll add a few notes on things I’ve done a little differently when I’ve made it.
For the tomato sauce:
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 14.5-oz cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1/4 tsp fennel seed
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- dash or two crushed red pepper flakes
For the roast veggies:
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- 1 small yellow squash, chopped
- 1/2 small peeled eggplant, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- drizzle of olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
For the polenta:
- 1 c polenta
- 1 c heavy cream
- 2 c milk (the heavier the milk, the creamier the polenta)
- 1 T butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1 c grated parmesan cheese
- 2 c shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- To make the tomato sauce:
- Heat olive oil in a medium-large pot over medium heat
- Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender
- Stir in garlic, tomatoes, basil, fennel seed, oregano, and red pepper flakes
- Season with salt and black pepper and let simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat
- While the sauce is simmering, roast the vegetables:
- Place all diced vegetables on a large baking sheet
- Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
- Toss to combine and coat all the vegetables
- Roast 25-35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally
- When they’re done, set aside to cool and reduce oven temperature to 375F
- When the vegetables and tomato sauce are done, make the polenta:
- In a large pot, slowly bring milk, cream, butter, sugar, and salt (and maybe another dash or crushed red pepper flakes) to a light simmer
- Slowly add the polenta to the pot, whisking constantly
- Once it starts to thicken, trade the whisk out for a spoon and stir until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot
- Add half the parmesan cheese to the polenta and stir to combine
- Pour the mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish that’s been greased or sprayed with cooking spray
- Top with the other half of the parmesan
- Evenly spread the roasted vegetables on top of the polenta
- Spread the tomato sauce over the vegetables and top with the mozzarella cheese
- Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until bubble and the cheese is melted and slightly browned
- Let rest for about 10 minutes
- Cut into squares and serve warm
And now, for my notes:
- I couldn’t tell you by looking which of my casserole dishes is a 2-quart dish, but my mother helpfully noted that it fits in her 13.5-8.5″ pan.
- I didn’t have any canned fire roasted tomatoes when I made this the first time, so instead I used one 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes. It turned out great, and I’ve kept doing this.
- I’ve used a combination of veggies based on what I like and what’s been available. I’m sure this would also be great with mushrooms, if I liked mushrooms, among other veggies.
- I forgot to peel the eggplant once and I didn’t notice anything different about the dish, so now I skip that step.
- I rarely have milk in the house, so instead of 1 c heavy cream and 2 c milk, I use 3 c half-and-half.
- I used more cheese than the recipe stipulates, because cheese.
- The first time I made this, I misread the directions and ended up adding all the cheese, both the parm and the mozz, to the polenta when it was still on the stove. So far, though I’ve since made the dish according to the actual instructions, this is my favorite version of the dish that I’ve made. This meant there wasn’t any mozz to put on top of the tomato sauce, so I didn’t have the visual cues of when to take it out of the oven, but as long as it’s bubbly at the edges I think you’re good.
- I haven’t had leftovers in the house long enough to try this, but my mother assures me this freezes beautifully.