Polenta is one of my favorite foods because it’s incredibly versatile. It can be a creamy, warm breakfast when lightly sweetened and topped with fruit; that same creamy polenta makes a great base for a savory meal bowl. Let freshly cooked polenta cool and you can cut it into pieces that taste amazing when pan-fried in a little bit of oil or bake it into cheesy kid-friendly fries. Or buy readymade polenta in a tube and use it to make this Vegetable Polenta Bake.
This is a weeknight meal I’ve been making for years, but I never bothered to write down the recipe until now. I sauté whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand from my CSA box and layer them with slices of polenta, cheese, and jarred marinara. When it’s baked, it’s kind of like a polenta lasagna–but much easier to throw together for dinner.
You can usually find tubes of polenta near the pasta and/or pasta sauces at the grocery store. If you’re lucky, your store will carry a few varieties–grab one with herbs in it if you have the option, but if not, plain is just fine. While this kind of polenta isn’t as flavorful as homemade, it doesn’t really matter for a recipe like this Vegetable Polenta Bake because you’re pairing it with so many other tasty ingredients and as it cooks, it’ll soak up the marinara.
If you’re into meal prep, you’ll be happy to know that this can be assembled up to a day in advance before baking.
Photos by Sunny Frantz
Vegetable Polenta Bake
Polenta is layered with sautéed vegetables, marinara and cheese in this easy weeknight dinner.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 small zucchini sliced into half moons
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1 18-ounce tube polenta, cut into 18 round slices
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
- Fresh basil and grated Parmesan for serving optional
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease a square baking dish with cooking spray or oil.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, a pinch of salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened and just beginning to turn golden.
Add the sliced mushrooms. Let the liquid cook out of the mushrooms, then continue to cook them until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and cook for 3 minutes more, or until the zucchini is tender. Stir in the marinara, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place half of the polenta rounds in the baking dish. Top with half of the vegetable mixture, then half of the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Bake the casserole for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so, then cut into 4 portions and serve with fresh basil and Parmesan, if desired.