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Roasted Squash and Polenta Torta with Red Onion Marmalade

Scott Phillips

Servings: 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)

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 270
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 80
  • Fat (g): 5
  • Saturated Fat (g): 1.5
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 20
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0
  • Cholesterol (mg): 20
  • Sodium (mg): 350
  • Carbohydrates (g): 37
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 8


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.


Rate or Review


  • KellyHayes | 07/02/2018

    Loved, loved, loved this! Made this yesterday to accompany a duck dinner. Added some orange zest to the marmalade. The liquid amount for the polenta IS correct. A tip I learned (and my polenta comes out perfectly each time) is to place your polenta, liquid and salt (although I salt at the end to taste) into an oven safe pot (ie. dutch oven). Give a quick stir then place uncovered into a preheated 350 degree oven. Cook for 40 minutes WITHOUT stirring. Remove, stir and add any additions (ie. your cheese if using etc), return and bake another 10 minutes if you'd like. The polenta comes out creamy and perfect every time. For this recipe I didn't add the cheese as duck is very rich, and I used chicken stock for the polenta. Chilled for several hours and it slipped from the spring form beautifully. As another writer mentioned, I kept mine on the bottom springform plate and then baked. Came out perfectly (wish we could post photos). Had some left over today with poached eggs. Thanks Fine Cooking!

  • mommasue | 12/04/2017

    I made the polenta using my pressure cooker-8 minutes under pressure, quick release, then stir and add the squash and the cheese. My first exposure to kabocha squash, it's terrific.Thanks to @cooksforfive, made sure my onion jam was really cooked down--took about an hour. Also, my polenta was pretty thick as well. Only had two hours to chill the assembled torta before cooking--and I was delighted that it was firm and well molded. Kept it on the bottom of the springform pan after removing the sides, couldn't understand why the recipe calls for it to be moved, a springform pan is designed to go into the oven. I just moved it to a baking sheet. It was gorgeous and delicious--and a great leftover as well. A hot slice of leftover torta topped with an over-easy egg makes a delicious breakfast!

  • cooksforfive | 12/12/2016

    I made this for company and it was a hit. It looked elegant and the flavors were very good (I used butternut squash). I did add salt to the polenta (and, contrary to what another reviewer said, the measurements are correct - it's 5 cups broth and 1 quart water) and cooked it until it was smooth and quite thick. I refrigerated the torta for several hours and it was firm when I removed the sides of the springform pan. I baked it on a pizza pan because I didn't have an oven-proof platter. Make sure to cook down the onions until there is no moisture - that may have contributed to soggy tortas.

  • Bagni | 12/29/2011

    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.

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