Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Parmesan Polenta and Aubergine Towers with Tomato Sauce

I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas

The requirement for this recipe was to create something which included tomato, olive oil and parmesan.  Of course, those ingredients lead inevitably to think 'Italian' and one of my favourites is the delicious Melanzane Parmigiana. My dish takes the idea of that classic recipe and turns it into individual portions with the addition of deeply cheesy polenta layers. It's a simple recipe but it does have a few stages.  It's worth it, trust me. A perfect light lunch with big green salad. 

Serves 4 (or 2 hungry people)


2 aubergines - from these slice 8 x 1.5 cm rounds (I roast the left overs with the rounds to use in another dish) 
olive oil to brush onto the aubergine slices 

125 grams polenta 
100 grams of tallegio (or fontina) chopped 
50 grams parmesan grated 
20 grams butter 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

1  small onion chopped 
1or 2 clove of garlic chopped 
2 sprigs of thyme chopped 
1 400 gm tin of tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée 
pinch of sugar 
salt and pepper 

8 basil leaves 
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano (use less if using dried)
50gms of mozzarella cut into 4 slices 
20 gms parmesan 

Heat the oven to 190 degrees 
You will need a baking tray for the aubergines and a large flat pan (greased) for the polenta.

For the aubergine  

Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with olive oil. Lay on the baking tray and put in the oven to cook for 30 to 40 minutes until soft and golden brown. The slices can be fried but they soak up a lot of oil that way. 

For the polenta 

Bring 1/2 a litre of water to boil in a large pan and add 1 tsp salt. Reduce to a simmer and pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly.  Continue to stir until the polenta has thickened and comes away from the sides of the pan (can take about 15 minutes or more) Take the pan off the heat and add the taleggio, the parmesan and the butter immediately.  Mix well until the cheese has melted and pour into a greased tray in a thin layer (about 1/2 cm thick). Set aside to cool. 

For the tomato sauce 

Warm a good tablespoon of olive oil in a pan.  Add the chopped onion, garlic and thyme.  Cook on a medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.  Stir in the tomatoes, tomato puree and a good pinch of sugar. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until you have a thick sauce.  Season to taste. (this will make more sauce than you need, but there is really no such thing as having too much home made tomato sauce). 

Assembling the rounds

Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees. 
Using a large round cutter cut out 8 rounds of polenta 
Put 4 of the slices of polenta in a row on a greased baking tray or oven proof dish.  Spread the slices with tomato sauce.  Place a round of aubergine on top with a basil leaf and a sprinkling of oregano.  Repeat 1 more time. 
Place a round of mozzarella on top of each of the 'towers' and sprinkle with parmesan. 

Place in the oven and cook until the towers are warmed through.  About 20 to 25 minutes. 

Place a tower on a plate with a good tablespoon of tomato sauce.