Cheesy Polenta with Grilled Cherry Tomato Sauce

By • August 16, 2011 26 Comments

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Author Notes: I love cherry tomatoes. They are delightful little flavor bombs. I most commonly eat them as nature intended, because they are as close to perfect as can be. I decided to turn them into a sauce, leaving some of them whole to burst in the mouth. I combined the sauce with some cheesy polenta for a comforting but fresh meal. The sauce could also be used over grilled summer squash or eggplant, grilled polenta slices, pasta, or gnocchi.hardlikearmour

Food52 Review: A plump, juicy tomato bursts in your mouth, gushing forth toasty warmth and a bit of zing from a splash of red wine vinegar. Beneath the red sauce lays a bed of cheesy, creamy, oh-so-good polenta, the corn grits taken to a new level with the addition of fontina and mascarpone cheese. Tomatoes, the highlight of the season, receive a boost from being grilled and the added hint of spice from the red pepper and tang from the vinegar. With the first bite, this dish became one of my new comforting favorites.snowcitygirl

Serves 3 to 4 (makes approximately 1 1/2 cups sauce)

Grilled Cherry Tomato Sauce

  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 1 3/4-inch thick slice from a large sweet onion
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium to large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  1. Heat your grill to medium. Toss 3/4 of the largest cherry tomatoes with a tablespoon of olive oil. Coat the onion slice with olive oil. Either use a vegetable basket for grilling or thread the tomatoes onto skewers. Grill the tomatoes until grill marks appear and tomatoes are soft (about 3 to 4 minutes), turning or stirring once. Carefully thread the onion slice onto 2 skewers, trying to keep the skewers going through the center of the slice (optional, but helps prevent loss of the smaller rings, and facilitates turning). Grill onion until semi-translucent and grill marks appear, turning once (about 4 to 6 minutes.)
  2. Transfer tomatoes to the bowl of a food processor, and process until fairly smooth. Coarsely chop the onion, then add it to the tomatoes. Pulse in a food processor until no large pieces of onion remain.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and red pepper and sauté, stirring continuously, until the garlic is fragrant (about 1 minute). Add tomato and onion mixture, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simmer for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly.
  4. Add the remaining cherry tomatoes to the mix, and cook for a minute or two until tomatoes are warmed through. Stir in thyme and oregano. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or additional vinegar if needed. Serve over creamy polenta, pasta, or grilled vegetables.

Cheesy Polenta with Grilled Cherry Tomato Sauce

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups polenta
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, divided
  • 3 ounces Italian fontina cheese, cubed or grated
  • Grilled Cherry Tomato Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta, and reduce heat to low. Gently simmer polenta until thickened, stirring frequently. The time on this will vary depending on your polenta, but it should take approximately 20 to 30 minutes. (If your polenta is done before your sauce, cover and remove from heat. When ready to proceed whisk in an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup water to loosen.)
  2. Stir in half of the mascarpone and all of the fontina. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Divide into bowls, and top each portion with tomato sauce, a dollop of mascarpone, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme. Dig in!

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