Layered Polenta With Broccoli Rabe

October 8, 2017 Last Updated: October 8, 2017

This recipe comes from Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos’s new cookbook, titled “Super Tuscan”:

Layered Polenta With Broccoli Rabe

Polenta pasticciata vegetariana

Wine Pairing: Young Sangiovese

Makes 6 to 8 main course or 10 to 12 appetizer servings

Soft-cooked polenta is often served as a side dish to sauced main courses. But when it is cooled and allowed to firm up, it can be sliced into slabs that can be layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella, just like lasagna. Some people like to serve this as a vegetarian main course, but we also serve it cut into small portions as an appetizer. Either way, “polenta as lasagna” is virtually unknown in America, and always sparks a conversation about how delicious it is! The broccoli rabe filling is wonderful, but consider other vegetables like grilled eggplant, sautéed mushrooms, or steamed and squeezed-dry spinach.

For the Polenta

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for oiling the pan
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups instant polenta

For the Broccoli Rabe

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

For the Sauce

  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • One 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes in juice, puréed with their juice in a blender
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded 
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To cook the polenta: Lightly oil a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan. Bring 6 cups of water and the salt to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Slowly whisk in the polenta, making sure the mixture is smooth. Change over to a wooden spoon and stir constantly until the polenta comes to a boil. Cook according to the package directions, stirring often, until smooth and thickened. Spread the polenta in the loaf pan (it will be very full). Let cool until tepid, about 1 hour. Invert and unmold onto a cutting board, and let cool completely, about 2 hours more.

To cook the broccoli rabe: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and return to a boil. Cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well.

Heat the oil with the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. A handful at a time, stir in the broccoli rabe. Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let it drain and cool. Coarsely chop the broccoli rabe and drain again to remove any excess liquid.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce: Cook the onion in oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until the onion is tender but not browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the hot red pepper flakes, followed by the puréed tomatoes, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. During the last few minutes, stir in the basil. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a flameproof 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish.

Cut the polenta crosswise into 30 slices about 1/4-inch thick. Arrange 10 of the polenta slices in a single layer in the dish, trimming them as needed to fit the dish and fill in gaps. Top with one-half of the broccoli rabe, followed by one-third each of the sauce, mozzarella, and Parmigiano. Repeat with another layer of polenta, the rest of the broccoli rabe, sauce, mozzarella, and Parmigiano. Finish with the remaining ingredients. (The dish can be covered loosely with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Remove the plastic wrap before baking.)

Place the baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, until the mozzarella is melted and the juices are bubbling, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Position a broiler rack about 8 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler on high. Return the dish to the oven and broil just until the mozzarella topping is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into serving portions and serve hot.

Reprinted with permission from “Super Tuscan” by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos. Copyright 2017. Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.