Frankly, this isn't an outstanding recipe - the tomato sauce & cheese are so common & predictable - but the technique of layering polenta with sauce & cheese makes this worth learning. You can add spices & vegetables to the polenta & change up the layers with a variety of sauces.
4 cups soft polenta
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella (about 2 medium balls), sliced 1/4-inch thick (in the video, I shred the fresh cheese)
It helps a lot if you oil the your dish, so be sure to do that first. You also need to be discerning with which dish you use - it can’t be too wide or too shallow, or else the ingredients won’t fit. In the video, I'm making half a recipe, & you can get an idea of how small of a dish I’m using.
Ladle 1 1/3 cups of soft polenta & gently spread it out with a silicon brush. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce over the polenta. On top of the tomato sauce, arrange half of the mozzarella slices (or shreds). Sprinkle with half the grated Parmesan cheese.
Ladle over another 1 1/3 cups polenta, spread on the rest of the tomato sauce, layer on the rest of the mozzarella & Parmesan cheese. Ladle over the remaining 1 1/3 cups of polenta & allow the torta to sit for at least 30 minutes before baking to allow the polenta to set. Fifteen minutes before baking, preheat the overn to 350 degrees F. Bake until hot and bubbling, about 30 minutes.
- Layer cooked greens over each layer of grated Parmesan cheese
- Make the torta with firm polenta, cutting pieces to fit the pan and layering as above.
- Stir 2 cups cooked vegetables (greens, dried beans, or corn, for example) into the polenta itself and layer as above with sauce and cheese.
- Use 1 cup of pesto instead of, or in addition to, the tomato sauce.
- Use 1 cup grated fontina cheese instead of mozzarella.
- Use 2 cups Bolognese sauce or mushroom ragù instead of tomato sauce (or Lamb Ragout)
4 cups water and/or stock
1 cup polenta (coarse or medium-ground)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Boil water &/or stock in a heavy-bottomed pot & whisk in all the polenta & salt, pouring in a little at a time while stirring. Turn down the heat and stir constantly until the polenta is suspended in the water and no longer settles to the bottom of the pot. Cook until it reaches the consistency you desire (or per the directions on the bag).
Before serving, stir in butter & cheese, taste, & add salt if needed. Be careful when tasting polenta - it is very hot.