This recipe was inspired by a dish I had out at a restaurant one night with friends. I thought they were so good that I came home to immediately recreate them in my own kitchen. They have a nice, great crunchy exterior while the inside has a smooth consistency that is packed with great flavor from the pesto that’s woven into the polenta. Serve warm with some really good marinara sauce for dipping.
Cooking spray, for coating loaf pan
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup polenta (yellow corn grits)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup prepared basil pesto
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated, plus extra for garnish
Breadcrumbs, for dredging
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Homemade tomato sauce, warmed, for serving
1. Coat a loaf pan on all sides with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5-10 minutes until mixture is thickened, whisking constantly. Season with pepper. Stir in pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Transfer polenta to loaf pan and smooth out top so mixture is evenly distributed in pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
3. Run a knife along inside of loaf pan to loosen polenta. Place a cutting board just large enough to cover loaf pan over its top and gently flip pan over to remove polenta. Cut loaf in half. Return one half, covered, to refrigerator for later use. Cut other half into 6 equal pieces.
4. In a small bowl, beat egg. In a another bowl, add breadcrumbs. Working one at a time, dredge each polenta piece in egg, followed by breadcrumbs, shaking off excess as you work.
5. In a large non-stick sauté pan, heat enough oil to cover bottom of pan over medium heat. Add polenta (working in batches if necessary as to not overcrowd pan) and give pan a quick shake to make sure none of polenta pieces are sticking. After that, leave them alone to cook on one side until lightly golden brown (if you try to move them before a crust has formed they will stick). Flip pieces and continue cooking, until golden brown on all sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving dish and top with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately with warm tomato sauce.