If I were to describe my experience working with polenta, I’d say it’s akin to my third time driving with my mom as she gripped the “holy shit” bar for dear life as I tried to get the hang of braking and accelerating without testing the limits of the seatbelts in the process. So, basically, I have total confidence but not nearly enough time behind the wheel.
Past trials with polenta have resulted in soupy, sticky, and stuck results, respectively. I’m pleased to say this this Basil, Sun-dried Tomato & Pancetta Polenta Breakfast Casserole was significantly more successful than earlier polenta experiments.
In case you have no idea what polenta is, it’s just boiled cornmeal which can then be baked, fried, or grilled. It’s really quite versatile and takes 2-3 minutes to make, once you get the hang of working with it.
I’ve provided some foolproof instructions in the recipe below so you know when to pull your polenta off the stovetop and transfer to your casserole dish.
While I may have advanced to intermediate polenta maker, I continue to be completely and utterly hopeless at figuring out precisely how long to bake eggs in cups/casseroles/sauces to ensure the whites are cooked through but the yolks are oozy perfection. I check on the eggs after 10 minutes and the whites are still raw. I poke at them again 3 minutes later, still raw. Two minutes later, it seems we’re making progress but are these eggs baking unevenly or is it just my imagination? Three minutes more and all of a sudden both whites and yolks are bricks. Perfect.
Rest assured this recipe is totally delicious but you’re totally on your own and at the the mercy of your oven when you try to figure out how well you want your eggs cooked in this casserole. Sorry, I tried.
If the polenta looks a little green, your screen isn’t deceiving you. I’ve mixed in some basil pesto for a more flavourful and herbal finished product. With sun-dried tomatoes, at least two types of cheese, and eggs inside pancetta cups nestled into the whole mess, this might be the perfect savoury brunch.
Basil, Sun-dried Tomato & Pancetta Polenta Breakfast Casserole
This easy and delicious polenta breakfast casserole is a real crowd-pleaser.
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
- 12 rounds of pancetta
- 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 cup 18% cream
- ½ cup Monterey Jack fontina or mozzarella, or a blend, shredded
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes sliced
- 1 packed cup arugula
- 6 large eggs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ cup packed basil leaves larger ones roughly torn (optional)
Heat oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the center. Grease 6 cups of a muffin tray with unsalted butter or cooking spray. Layer two rounds of pancetta into each to form pancetta cups. Bake in center of the oven for 8 minutes.
Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch pan and set aside.
Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta and salt, and cook, stirring constantly until the polenta bubbles and pulls away from the pan, about 3 minutes. Vigorously stir in the cream, butter, basil pesto and cheese until smooth and creamy. (It will seem loose.)
Spread the polenta onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer with arugula and sun-dried tomatoes and nestle the pancetta cups into the polenta. Crack the eggs inside the pancetta cups, sprinkle with Parmesan, and bake 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how set you like your eggs. Let stand for 5 minutes; sprinkle with black pepper and basil and serve warm.