Yotam Ottolenghi's Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

By • July 31, 2012 • 53 Comments

Author Notes: In its entirety, this is a recipe that works and is really, really good. But it's also full of ideas you can parcel out as you see fit -- namely: polenta doesn't have to be born out of dry goods. Fresh corn, cooked quickly, breaks down to a sweet soup in the food processor. Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi's Plenty (Chronicle Books, 2011).

Genius Recipes

Serves 4

Eggplant Sauce

  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  1. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until nicely brown. Drain off as much oil as you can and discard it -- the safest way to do this is to scoop out the eggplant to a plate using a slotted spoon, then pour off the oil into a bowl before added the eggplant back in. You can save the oil to fry lamb chops or eggs in tomorrow.
  2. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir with the eggplant. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and oregano and cook for a further 5 minutes to get a deep-flavored sauce. Set aside; warm it up when needed.


  • 6 ears of corn
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 7 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Remove the leaves and "silk" from each ear of corn, then chop off the pointed top and stalk. Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels -- either stand each ear upright on its base and shave downward, or lay each ear on its side on a cutting board to slice off the kernels. You want to have 1 1/4 pounds kernels.
  2. Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with the water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid.
  3. Process them for quite a few minutes, to break as much of the kernel case as possible. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
  4. Now return the corn paste to the pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to mashed potato consistency. (Be aware that if you have a lot of liquid left in the pan, it can take a while to cook down the polenta, and it will sputter. Consider holding back some or all of the liquid. Alternately, if you like the consistency after processing, you can skip to step 5.)
  5. Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and some pepper and optionally cook for a further 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
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Tags: corn, eggplant, polenta

Comments (53) Questions (4)


4 days ago Marsha Gainey

I made the sauce recently but not the polenta. I topped traditional polenta with the sauce, which was delish! And pretty fast to make. The only thing I changed was that the finished sauce was very undersalted; I ended up adding 1/2 to 3/4 t. salt to my sauce. BTW, I made my polenta in my slow cooker using America's Test Kitchen's recipe from volume 1 of its two slow cooker cook books, and it, too, was delish with the added plus of no stirring (and stirring . . . and stirring . . .).


5 months ago Gilda Barco-Pritchard

For tomorrow i will be serving the eggplant recipe on the cover of his book Plenty, and this one will be on my next week menus!! Can't wait, YUMMY!!


6 months ago Renee B

Oh yum! I made this tonight for book club and it was a big hit. Who knew polenta was so easy and delicious. Confession, I used frozen sweet organic corn from Trader Joe's.


11 months ago Reneesworld

This was divine! I did not use that much Feta: just about one ounce or so for two of us. The eggplant tomato sauce is spectacular.


11 months ago Donna

I made a vegan version of the polenta by using dairy free margarine and replacing feta with 1tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (for the cheesy flavour). Yum loved it and recommending the above recipe to friends and family.


11 months ago fhp

I've been making this fresh corn polenta for a couple of years now and everyone loves it. Last night we had it with platters of Johnny Cakes, Bacon and fresh Tomatoes. Summer!!!


11 months ago Lynn Antone

Wondering if this is allowed to sit will it become thick enough to slice???


12 months ago Lisa Wehr

Would it be possible to cook the ears whole and then cut off the kernels and process them? I know it wouldn't come out the same weight, but it seems easier to do than than cook the kernels and fish them out with a slotted spoon.


12 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I've never tried it, but it would probably work -- you may need to add splashes of the cooking liquid while processing. Alternately, rather than fishing out the kernels, you can also just strain the kernels over a bowl, reserving the broth in case you want to add any back in.


12 months ago crabby Q

Made this last night. Delish!! We licked our plates clean. I used 1.5 cups of water to cook the kernels and added the whole amount back, but prob could have used less, as it took awhile to cook down. And used half the butter. Was still very rich and yummy.


12 months ago rags

I made this twice last week with fresh vegetables from my garden. As long as fresh corn is available, I will never again use dried polenta. This had such a wonderful, sweet corn flavor! The second time I made it I topped it with crispy fried scallions, toasted almond pieces and some lime zest. I then drizzled a small amount of sriracha marinade I had made for chicken skewers over the polenta. It was a delicious confluence of east meets mediterranean. The possibilities are endless.


about 1 year ago Katie Athaide

made this the other day was amazing!!!


about 1 year ago za'atar

Normally I think of polenta with a tomato sauce as being a heavy, winter-time dish. It was nice to see this fresh, summer version highlighting seasonal produce. I will definitely be returning to this recipe throughout the summer.


about 1 year ago iflamm

I made this today with frozen corn out of necessity - it worked! Instead of the eggplant sauce, I served Food 52's Swearing Like A Sailor Stuffed Eggplant over the polenta. Excellent!


almost 2 years ago cookbookchick

I made this yesterday with small ears of corn that were very sweet and not starchy, so based on comments posted here, I cut the water to 1 1/2 cups. Worked perfectly! I also weighed the corn as I stripped the ears to get the required amount. We ate the leftover ears for dinner. Tonight I will finish off the polenta with the butter and cheese, reheat the eggplant sauce I also made yesterday, and we will feast.


almost 2 years ago Nuala

Could I prep the polenta to step 3 ahead of time and pick it up at step 4 after my guests arrive? I worry about the polenta sitting for a while affecting the texture, but if that's not the case it would be wonderful to do as much in advance as possible!


almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes, you could definitely do that, although cooking down the puree in step 4 can be the most time-consuming part (depending on how much liquid you add back). I think you'd also be fine doing step 4 in advance. You may just need to add in a bit more liquid as you reheat, and adjust the seasoning to taste. Hope you like it!


almost 2 years ago EmmaC

This recipe is so delicious! I substituted eggplant with sauteed shitake mushrooms. Instead of creating the sauce, I added a bit of tomato paste to the corn polenta. I also did not have to use any cooking liquid in the polenta reduction. It turned out delicious! Definitely going in my "go-to dish" list.


almost 2 years ago Mjhanlon

This is a fabulous summer side especially with very fresh sweet corn. I sliced the eggplant lengthwise and brushed generously with EV olive oil and baked at 450 for about 25 minutes and then diced and followed rest of the recipe.


almost 2 years ago mommysinthekitchen

5 ears of corn yielded less than a pound. nevertheless i followed suggestions from comments and added only a tad of the cornwater back after processing. the consistency was perfect, but i actually found the polenta to be too sweet! anyone else?


almost 2 years ago pixielated

I had 3 ears of corn and a 1/2 cup of dried polenta in my pantry, so I decided to use this recipe as a basis for using them both up. First, I prepared the dried polenta with a couple cups of water, stirring for about an hour, like my grandma used to do. I poured that polenta into a bowl, and used the same pot to prepare the fresh corn with these instructions. After pureeing the cooked corn, I simply mixed it together with the prepared polenta, added my salt, butter and cheese, and voila! Super creamy, super sweet. Thanks for the idea to use fresh! I think I'll always mix these two from now on...


almost 2 years ago lschmoyer

This was a terrific way to use super fresh veggies. My corn was very fresh and juicy, so I didn't add any water back before cooking to thicken. I can't wait to make this again!
Like another user, my eggplant soaked up more oil than I expected. Is there a trick or technique for preventing eggplant from absorbing so much oil? Perhaps warming the oil to a higher temperature?


over 1 year ago Cathy Gordon

You can coat it with egg white.