I think eggplant parmesan is the default vegetarian option for most American-style Italian meals. More often than not, that’s what you’ll find alongside trays of baked ziti and chicken parmesan at parties. So, when I start seeking out new meatless meals for the Lenten dinner series, I tend to avoid Italian-inspired searches. It’s not that I don’t love eggplant parmesan, I do, it’s just that it sort of feels overdone.
I was searching for something else entirely when I came across this recipe – and it made me realize how wrong I was to discount Italian options for this series. This was so, so good. Comfort food at it’s finest! And easy enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed making it after a busy week.
(slightly adapted from Mountain Momma Cooks)
1/2 cup polenta
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
2-3 Tbsp. half & half
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
2 Tbsp. drained capers
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried crushed basil
1/8 tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans
Fresh basil, for serving
In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and stir in polenta and salt. Return a boil then turn to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes. If it gets to thick, stir in an additional 1-2 Tbsp. water. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, butter and half & half. Keep warm until serving time.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add in onions and cook about five minutes, until soft. Add the olives and capers and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, red pepper flakes and salt and stir to combine thoroughly. Let simmer until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Stir in garbanzo beans and let heat through.
Serve sauce over polenta, topped with fresh basil.