Eggplant & Tomato Sauce over Polenta is an easy dinner that gets to the table very quickly. It's bursting with chunky and rich tomato sauce that covers creamy and buttery polenta.Jump to Recipe
POLENTA AS THE BASE
Polenta is a delectable dish that deserves more praise than it gets. It's creamy, somewhat silky, delicious, buttery, rich, so comforting, and very versatile. The flavor is mild, but the texture is not simple. There’s something so satisfying and deep about it.
You can also add in ingredients that will give it new character and new flavor. Polenta can be eaten mashed or even baked into pieces. Because of this, it’s very flexible and can be treated like a canvas. It feels similar to mashed potatoes in this way, but the two are not similar.
Use it for whatever you want as you would potatoes or pasta. It makes a great base to any dish that can pair with just about any sauce. In contrast to this Eggplant & Tomato Sauce is my Garlic Butter Shrimp.
A PEASANT DISH
It is true that I only tried polenta for the first time in 2015, yet my family is entirely Italian! Because polenta is a Northern Italian dish, my family did not pass a recipe on for it because my ancestors are from Southern Italy. So, it's fair to say that I’m making up for lost time.
Polenta is also very cheap to make and because of that, it used to be somewhat of a peasant dish. I love it for this reason though. Its main ingredient comes from cornmeal. Which is a staple ingredient in other cultural dishes like grits or cornbread too. It’s a wonderfully flexible and cheap ingredient, used just like flour.
CHUNKY TOMATO & EGGPLANT SAUCE
I’m all for a tomato sauce you cook all day long on a low simmer that makes the house smell amazing. This is not that sauce. This sauce is a quick shortcut sauce, that’s still homemade. And in contrast, this sauce is also a chunky thinner sauce than a thick smooth sauce you would coat pasta with. The big chunks of eggplant, onion, and tomato help round out the polenta and are a perfect pair of smooth and chunky. This dish is so flexible you can serve it whenever. The best use for it really is a weeknight dinner.
There are two types of cornmeal that we should talk about:
Instant cornmeal – cooks and comes together much quicker than regular cornmeal, saving you so much time. This is a perfectly fine substitute. It has a fine texture since the cornmeal is ground more allowing you to cook it less.
Regular cornmeal – takes longer to come together. The texture of regular cornmeal is a bit grittier and coarse than the instant kind. Because of this, it needs longer to cook and smooth out a bit. The grit also makes the texture more complex.
If you like the gritty texture and have the time, I would say go for the regular cornmeal. If you’d rather it be smooth and want it to come together as quick as possible, go for instant cornmeal. Either way, it won’t make a huge difference on the recipe and it is nice to have both on hand.
Eggplant – the eggplant in this is cut into nice big 1” chunks that get softened before the tomato sauce cooks. They shrink while they cook and take on the flavor of the sauce aside from some caramelizing beforehand. Leave the skin on for very easy and quick prep and added nutrition
Onion – I never use onion in my tomato sauce. Unless I'm doing a quick sauce or Bolognese because it adds in quick flavor. Don’t skip this since the sauce is not cooking for very long.
Parmesan – this seemingly minor ingredient is what ties the whole thing together for me. You can use grated, but my favorite for this kind of chunky dish is big shaved pieces of parm.
Leaving the skin on the eggplant gives texture, but it also leaves the biggest nutritional advantage of eggplant intact. Purple and blue-hued fruits and vegetables are loaded with powerful antioxidants that give their skin their vibrant color, so leave that on for the biggest nutritional benefit. The eggplant itself is also loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fun fact that I just learned doing this post – eggplants are technically a fruit? Say what? Is that common knowledge everyone knows?
REHEATING & STORING
After sitting, polenta starts to get thicker and thicker over time and becomes less and less creamy. So when you heat it up, you’ll need to add in some liquid to get it back to its creamy state. You can do this on the stove or alternatively heat it in the microwave and stir in some milk or broth afterwards.
AS ALWAYS, IF YOU MAKE THIS – PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!
Polenta and tomato eggplant
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups broth
- 1 cup cornmeal
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- Drizzle olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large eggplant cut into 1” chunks
- 4 cups homemade or jarred tomato sauce
- ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
- ¼ cup shaved parmesan
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk & chicken broth to a low boil. Add in the cornmeal and lower to a simmer. Stir frequently.
Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté with a drizzle of olive oil. When the onion is translucent, add in the eggplant. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the eggplant cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Pour in the tomato sauce and freshly minced parsley. Let the sauce come to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.
Finish polenta by adding 4 tbsp butter and salt & pepper to taste. Keep stirring until the consistency is thick, not runny. Once thickened, take off the heat and stir in parmesan.
To plate, top off the polenta with the tomato sauce, shaved parmesan, and fresh parsley
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?
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