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Gratin of Polenta with Greens

Daniel Proctor

Servings: four as a first course or a side

This gratin can be a substantial side dish or a light supper. Flavoring olive oil with crushed red chile flakes makes a “red” oil to add subtle heat.


  • 1 cup medium-coarse or coarse cornmeal, preferably organic stone-ground
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt; more to taste
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste  
  • 1 lb. mixed tender greens, such as arugula, spinach, watercress, young kale, plus a few sprigs of dill or fennel; thick stems cut away, leaves chopped coarsely
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino romano

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 250
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 120
  • Fat (g): 14
  • Saturated Fat (g): 3
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8
  • Cholesterol (mg): 10
  • Sodium (mg): 730
  • Carbohydrates (g): 27
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 7


Prepare the polenta:

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. In an oiled 3-qt. nonstick ovenproof skillet, stir together the cornmeal, water, and salt. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the greens:

  • In a very large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chile flakes, and a pinch of black pepper; cook for 1 minute. Pour half the oil into a 1-1/2- or 2-qt. baking and serving dish, reserving the garlic in the skillet, and then pour another 1 Tbs. into a cup to be drizzled over the final dish. Brush the seasoned oil all over the inside of the serving dish. Add the chopped greens to the oil and garlic remaining in the skillet, cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic. Season the greens with salt and pepper. If necessary, uncover the greens and increase the heat at the end to evaporate any liquid. (You’ll have 1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked greens.)
  • When the polenta has cooked 40 minutes, quickly stir in the greens and half the cheese until combined. Taste and add salt if needed. Transfer to the oiled ovenproof serving dish, drizzle with the reserved oil, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake until the cheese is melted, another 10 minutes. Serve hot.


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