Polenta and White Beans with Homemade Marinara

Polenta is an Italian dish that refers to the traditional preparation of coarse ground cornmeal cooked
steadily over medium heat into a mildly creamy porridge. It is typically made fresh, but if you’ve ever
wondered about those polenta rolls sold in grocery stores I am here to tell you that they are marvelous
and will quickly become your new favorite staple in the kitchen. Because they are pre-cooked, you
simply slice and reheat by roasting, sautéing or even grilling to caramelize the outside and then pair with
any sauce that you would otherwise throw on pasta.


The secret of this rustic yet sophisticated Polenta with White Beans and Homemade Marina dish is the
dreamy marinara that is full of vibrant tomato flavors and made with only five simple ingredients. Best
of all you can add in any grilled vegetables or protein of your choice to the polenta base for a new twist
on Italian night.

INGREDIENTS

1 tube of polenta

  • 14-oz can cannellini beans
  • 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 handful of fresh basil or parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In medium saucepan combine the entire can of tomatoes along with the halved onion, garlic cloves, 2 TBS olive oil and oregano. Bring the sauce to a bubble then turn down to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the entire onion after 30 minutes and discard or reserve for another recipe. Use a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes and smash the garlic cloves against the side of the pot.  This should result in a slightly chunky and flavorful sauce. Add salt to taste. Meanwhile, slice the tube of polenta cut into ½ ‘’ rounds. Preheat large pan on medium heat, add the remaining 2 TB olive oil and cook polenta rounds 4-5 minutes per side until soft and golden.  Serve warm polenta rounds on a plate then spoon over the homemade marinara and top it off with white beans, freshly diced basil or parsley, and parmesan cheese.

Golden Tomato Pasta

Heirloom tomatoes come in an array of colors and flavor profiles, and while they are often typecast as a summer cold salad ingredient, they also cook down into a wonderful homemade marinara that bursts with rich juicy flavors. The pale yellow and striped bright orange heirlooms in particular have a low-acid, mildly sweet flavor with a soft meaty texture and when pureed with tiny sweet orange cherry tomatoes along with the humble sweet onion you get this golden rich and creamy tomato sauce that is totally addictive. If you are growing your own heirloom tomato garden in the summer this is a perfect recipe to show off your beautiful bounty. Fortunately even here in the Midwest you can get your hands on a multitude of tomato varieties even in the winter. Interlace your gold tomato sauce with spicy red pepper flakes and fresh cherry tomatoes and basil leaves for an elegant yet simple pasta dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb golden heirloom tomatoes, diced into large wedges
  • 1 pint orange cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 1 pint red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, slivered
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 2 fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 lb spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onion with olive oil until translucent. Add the minced garlic then mix in your heirloom tomato variety and your orange cherry tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover with a lid for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not be tempted to add liquid as these tomatoes will collapse and release sweet concentrated tomato juice for an incredible sauce. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to directions. When tomatoes are cooked down, use a hand blender to puree into a hot soup or ladle into a blender to process. Toss your pasts to coat with sauce then garnish with your fresh basil, red pepper flakes and cherry tomatoes.

Potty Parties and Eggplant Rollatini for LOOOOONG DAYS

eggplant 1 eggplant 2 After four hours of a naked toddler “potty party” as raved about on the internet, which included an obscene amount of salty toddler snacks and apple juice last Friday, we finally managed to get Asher to pee in his potty! It took three accidents on the carpet and an episode of “Curious George” while he sat naked on the potty for 26 minutes, but hey it’s a step in the right direction. He still talks about our little “potty party” which was enjoyed by exactly no one, and when we ask if he wants to have another party he simply says “NAH, maybe after tomorrow.”

So today’s recipe I share NOT because it is impressive or even original, I share it because it is easy to prepare when you are having a day of insurmountable exhausting tasks like my whole weekend felt. You’ll be grateful because it lasts in the fridge for a few days, and it’s a healthier dinner option that tastes like deep dish pizza that your whole family can enjoy.

EGGPLANT ROLLATINI
2 medium eggplants
32 oz tub of part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded skim mozzarella
1 bunch of chopped basil
1 bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 jar of marinara sauce
Olive oil spray
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the two ends off the eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange on two baking sheets, then spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt to remove moisture and bitterness from the eggplant. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, in large mixing bowl add ricotta, mozzarella, basil, spinach and garlic and about 1/3 jar of marinara. You can use a hand blender to smooth the texture of the cheese stuffing or leave as is. Place 1 tablespoon of cheese stuffing onto one end of an eggplant slice and roll in your hand. This might be messy! Line them up immediatly after rolling in 13 x 9 casserole dish, then top with remaining marinara and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes.