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 🙂
Spicy Polenta Puttanesca
Creamy vegan polenta topped with a spicy homemade puttanesca sauce, featuring tomatoes, capers, pepper, and olives.
For the polenta:
For the puttanesca sauce:
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 small banana pepper halved, seeded, and thinly sliced (see notes)
- 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz or use 1 and 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp capers
- 16-20 medium pitted black olives sliced
- salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley for serving
- toasted pine nuts for serving
For the polenta:
Bring the water and almond milk to a boil. Add the corn grits, 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.
For the puttanesca sauce:
- 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.
SPICINESS: I've found that banana peppers can vary significantly in spiciness, at least around here. If you're sensitive to heat then start with 1/2 of a pepper, and skip the additional red pepper flakes.
CORN GRITS: You can use uncooked polenta instead of corn grits; more water and cooking time may be required. Adjust according to your package directions.
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!
If you’re a fan of these flavors you may also like my one pot spaghetti alla puttanesca!