Crispy Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Sautéed Kale & Mushrooms recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

Crispy Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Sautéed Kale & Mushrooms 

This is a heavy rotation in my house because it can easily be assembled from things in the fridge. I actually developed the recipe when I went foraging in my refrigerator for ingredients so that I didn’t have to make a trip to the grocery store. I had some leftover polenta that had “setin the container so I cut it into squares and pan-fried it until crispy. The recipe was so successful that now I make polenta just for this reason but leftover polenta will do the trick as well. The crispy polenta is topped with tomato sauce, sautéed kale, mushrooms and a generous pile of grated Parmesan cheese. 

While this recipe calls for homemade tomato sauce,  “store bought” sauce can be used as as a substitute. There’s nothing wrong with canned sauce and it can be an easy shortcut, but since ithomemade sauce only requires a few ingredients, I typically prefer to make my own. 



For the polenta: 

3 cups chicken stock (or water) 

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup coarse polenta 

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


For the spicy tomato sauce: 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ medium yellow onion, chopped 

4 cloves garlic, chopped 

1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes 

¼ (packed) cup chopped fresh basil leaves 

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

Kosher salt, as needed

Freshly ground black pepper, as needed 


For the sautéed kale: 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

8 ounces curly kale, stalks removed and roughly chopped (about 5 packed cups)

¾ cup chicken stock 


For the mushrooms: 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

¾ pound assorted mushrooms, quartered (I use baby bella, shiitake & maitake) 

Kosher salt, as needed



For the polenta: 

Bring the chicken stock (or water) and salt to a boil in a medium saucepot over medium-high heat. Slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Season with the pepper and stir in the Parmesan until fully incorporated.

Line a 9x9-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the polenta in and spread in an even layer. Cover and refrigerate until it becomes firm, for at least an hour. 

Cut the polenta into 9 squares. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Working in batches add the polenta to the pan and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside. 


For the spicy tomato sauce: 

Heat a large saucepot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the onion and sauté until sot and opaque, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and basil, stirring to combine. Simmer until the sauce comes together, about 30 to 45 minutes, adding more water if the sauce gets too dry. Stir in the red pepper and season with salt and pepper. 


For the sautéed kale:             

Heat a large high-edged sauteuse pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through (may have to work in two batches depending on the size of the pan). Add the kale and toss to coat in the oil. Sauté, stirring occasionally until the kale has wilted. 

Lower the heat to medium-low then add the chicken stock and simmer until the kale is tender and most of the stock has evaporated, about 8 minutes.


For the mushrooms: 

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add butter and allow to melt, then add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Season with salt and continue to cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. 


For serving:

Divide the crispy polenta among plates with kale and mushrooms. Top with sauce and Parmesan. 


Serves 4.



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