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Roasted Squash and Polenta Torta with Red Onion Marmalade

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Serves 10-12

This savory polenta torta (Italian for cake or tart) gets big flavor from roasted squash and slow-cooked onions. Kabocha squash lends a dense texture and nutty flavor, but you can also use butternut. This makes a great vegetarian entree, and would be especially welcome at the Thanksgiving table as an alternate main course.

  • 1 2- to 3-lb. kabocha squash, halved and seeded; or butternut squash, halved, seeded, and sliced crosswise 1-1/2 inch thick
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for the baking sheet and pan
  • 5 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable broth 
  • 2-1/2 cups coarse cornmeal polenta, such as Bob’s Red Mill
  • 2-1/4 lb. red onions, quartered, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • Sea salt
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked hot Spanish paprika
  • 2 Tbs. sweet sherry or Marsala
  • 8 oz. grated Manchego cheese or sharp white Cheddar (about 3-1/2 cups)
Assemble the torta

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Roast the squash cut side down on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet until tender, 45 to 50 minutes (if using butternut, roast cut side down in a single layer, flipping halfway through). Scoop the flesh from the skins and mash it with a potato masher. You’ll need 2 cups for the torta; save any extra for another use.

Bring the broth and 1 quart water to a boil in a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan over mediumhigh heat. Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the polenta begins to thicken, 1 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is tender and no longer gritty, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the thyme and paprika, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are reduced to about a third of their original volume and look like jam, 40 to 50 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium high, and add the sherry. Cook, stirring often, until the sherry is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Set aside off the heat.

Stir three-quarters of the cheese into the polenta until melted. Stir in the 2 cups mashed squash. Season to taste with salt.

Oil a 10-inch springform pan. While the polenta is still hot and soft, spoon half of it into the pan and spread it evenly. Spread the onion marmalade over the polenta in an even layer right out to the edge. Spoon the remaining polenta over the onions, spread it evenly, and score the top lightly with a fork—it will look like corduroy. Chill the torta on a rimmed baking sheet in the refrigerator until very firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. The onion marmalade may leak a bit, but that’s OK.

Bake the torta

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Run a knife along the inside of the springform pan to loosen the torta. Remove the side of the springform pan and use two large spatulas to carefully transfer the torta to an ovenproof serving plate. Bake until hot throughout, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until it melts, 8 to 10 minutes.

To serve, carefully and gently cut the torta into wedges. The torta is soft when hot, but it will hold its shape if you handle it gently.

Make Ahead Tips

The assembled torta can be made one or two days ahead and refrigerated, tightly wrapped in plastic. Let it sit on a rimmed baking sheet at room temperature for about an hour before baking as directed in the recipe.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 270; Fat (g): fat g 5; Fat Calories (kcal): 80; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 1.5; Protein (g): protein g 8; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 37; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 20; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 350; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 20; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Gotta agree with lyricman's review on all points. I made this for company and it oozed all over the baking pan into a heap that didn't look very attractive. Tasted good, not great. I never mind the work that goes into a great recipe but this one wasn't worth it.

There is a typo in the recipe -- it should read one CUP of water, not one QUART!!! Otherwise great recipe.

I made this for my husband and me. He was born and raised in an area of France that is near Italy, and polenta is a staple there. He loved this torta. We both did. I added 1 tsp salt to the polenta. The torta held up well; it did not fall apart. One thing: I baked the torta on the pan bottom set in a baking sheet since I don't have an ovenproof round platter.

Not certain how to rate this; the flavors were good, but the polenta was too soft and soggy. When I pulled it from the ring and baked it, the bottom layer oozed out. I will have to try again.

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