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Recipes   /   Polenta Pasticciata

Polenta Pasticciata

May 2, 2012 by Gabriele Corcos


Sorry, I have been thinking for a couple of days on how to translate “Pasticciata”. The word in Italian means “Messed Up”, with no particular dedicated shape…
Then the proverbial light bulb went off in my head, and I finally found the immigrant in me! The word Parmesan appeared in my head along with a WTF, but I finally (probably) found the reason for this too commonly used adjective in Italian-American cooking lingo and restaurant menus. From now on, I promise, I won’t bitch about it anymore… Whoever used the word Parmesan first, when indicating the preparation of a dish that requires Red Sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan, did the only possible thing…linguistically. Hopefully he or she, was also a good cook!
Clean up your kitchen counter and wash your hands, let’s get going.


Serves: 4 / Prep Time: 20 minutes / Cooking Time: 40 minutes

  • Red Sauce (see below)
  • 1 Box Instant Polenta
  • 1 Lb Mozzarela (not Bufala because it’s too wet)
  • 1/2 Lb Freshly Grated Parmesan



Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cooking Time: 15 minutes

  • 1/2 Red Onion
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 Can of Pelati (16 ounces)
  • 2 Handful of Fresh Basil
  • 1 Sprinkle of Crushed Red Pepper
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


1Chop the onion medium thin.

2Wash the fresh basil and set aside.

3Process the can of pelati with a blender.

4On a medium high flame brown the onion…

5When golden, pour the pelati, add salt, pepper and red pepper, and lower the flame to medium. The cooking time is about 15 minutes…this is what it takes to the sauce to get to a nice consistency. A few minutes before taking your sauce of the fire, put in the pan the basil.

POLENTA PASTICCIATA (Polenta Cake “Parmesan”)

Keep in mind that in the episode we made two full pans and used double ingredients. Also, more ingredients means a longer cooking time for the Red Sauce (consider 15 min each 16 oz. can of pelati).

We usually cook the instant Polenta. It takes between 3 to 8 minutes to be ready to serve, depending on the brand; the traditional polenta needs to cook for hours, and I honestly do not know anybody that can fit that in a family’s schedule when grandma is not around.

Follow the instruction on the box, mold the polenta in two bread pans, and let it cool off as long as you can…about one hour would be ideal, but 15 minutes can work as well….

But keep in mind: a cold polenta is easy to slice, a hot polenta is not only hard to slice but it also behaves like “Hell in Your Hands”.

1Grate the mozzarella, or cut it in very small pieces and set aside in a bowl.

2Preheat the oven to 425Fº.

3Butter a 7/11 Pirex Pan, start cutting the polenta in thin slices and prepare a first layer.

4In the following order: one layer of polenta, one of red sauce, a generous sprinkle of grated mozzarella and one of parmesan cheese. Keep on going until there is no more polenta (usually two layers), then dress with the red sauce and the cheese.

5Cook in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, then broil for a final 5 minutes to brown the cheese top and “make it beautiful”. Serve dressed with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper to taste, and a final touch of grated Parmesan.

Buon Appetito
Debi and Gabriele


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