This quick n’ easy polenta puttanesca recipe is one from the “college archives”. When I was in college and learning how to cook (you should have SEEN the way I use to hold knives), I didn’t have a big comfort zone with recipes, nor a large amount of curiosity to experiment. If I did anything ‘experimental’, it was dumping a bunch of cheese on top of something, or maybe a fried egg or some bits of bacon. I had no cooking supplies other than basic utensils, a couple of frying pans, one small saucepan, and a blender.
After about 2 years of trying to feed myself, I finally started to get the hang of it and dip my toes in the water of making things without a recipe in front of me. Sure, this still consisted of way too much cheese, but at least I was trying. With gusto, I threw ingredients together, to mixed results. But at least 10% of the things that I tried to make turned out really great! And the rest were mostly edible, too. One of the creations that was a hit right away was this polenta dish.
When I discovered the combination of capers and olives I had no idea that there was something called puttanesca sauce, but it was sweet and tangy and went great with the leftover cooked polenta that we had. So great that I didn’t reach for the cheese shaker. I didn’t have any mental bandwidth for this at the time, but this was probably the first wholesome vegan meal that I ever came up with. And it remains one of my favorites!
I’ll be the first to admit that this puttanesca might not be totally authentic, but it has the capers, olives, tomatoes and parsley going on so it has to at least be in the ballpark. Doesn’t matter though. It’s dang delicious and I think you’d love it if you give it a try. Not only that, but you can have it on the table in around 20 minutes – definitely less than half an hour. If you want to further extend the meal I would suggest serving it with some arugula that’s been lightly tossed in balsamic vinegar. And/or maybe a nice crusty bread 🙂
- 1 and ½ c. water
- 1 and ½ c. plain, unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 c. cornmeal / corn grits
- 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar (substitute white vinegar or cider vinegar)
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- (optional) crumbled dried rosemary & dried thyme
- ¼ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small banana pepper, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced (see notes)
- 1 can diced tomatoes, mostly drained
- 2 tb. capers
- 16-20 medium pitted black olives, sliced
- salt, freshly ground pepper, dried oregano, red pepper flakes
- ¼ c. chopped fresh parsley, for serving
- toasted pine nuts, for serving
- Bring the water and almond milk to a boil. Add the cornmeal, salt, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and dried herbs, and stir.
- Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 more minutes. You'll know the polenta is done when you start to see giant bubbles forming and the cornmeal is soft and fluffy.
- Set aside for a few minutes before eating.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a splash of water or vegetable broth along with the onion, garlic, and banana pepper. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and adding more water or broth as needed, until the vegetables are softened.
- Add the tomatoes, capers, and black olives, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add seasonings to taste (be mindful, as the capers/olives/canned tomatoes may be salty already), and serve over a scoop of polenta with chopped parsley and pine nuts.
This sauce can easily be made with olive oil to saute instead of water. Just heat the olive oil in the skillet before adding the aromatic vegetables.
This dish comes together super quickly either way, but to save even more time, cook the polenta after you've started the sauce.
This polenta cooking method is very gently adapted from the Bob’s Red Mill package instructions. 🙂 I’m already ready for more puttanesca! My week has been a little crazy, but I will definitely be back in the kitchen this weekend making some sweets and/or Valentine’s Day goodies =] Happy Thursday!