A Cook's Plot

Vegetarian & Vegan

Baked polenta with tomatoes and feta

Fabulous meat-free dish for lunch or supper

I bought a jar of za’atar a few months ago for a recipe and have been experimenting with it ever since. It’s a mix of oregano, thyme, sesame, sumac and coriander and gives a lovely, exotic flavour to all sorts of dishes, especially when tomatoes are among the ingredients. (You can find it in the spices aisle in larger supermarkets.) I’ve been trying out different ways of using polenta recently too, and this is now one of my favourite recipes. The key to tasty polenta, I’ve found, is to season it really well, and to stir in lots of cheese…


Serves 4-6

  • For the tomato sauce:
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • half a red chilli, deseeded
  • 400g tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sherry (or balsamic) vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • jar of cannellini beans
  • 2 tbsp za'atar
  • For the polenta:
  • 400ml milk
  • 300ml water
  • 40g butter
  • 200g quick-cook dried polenta
  • 80g cheddar or parmesan (vegetarian, if necessary)
  • 150g feta, chopped into cubes


First make the tomato sauce: fry the onion gently in olive oil with the crushed fennel seeds for about 5 mins, until tender. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the pepper and chilli with the tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and plenty of seasoning. Simmer for 10 mins, or until the tomatoes are soft, then add the za'atar and cannellini beans.

Next, make the polenta: Line a baking tray with baking parchment and set aside. Put half the butter in a pan with the milk and water and heat gently until it has melted. Turn up the heat until the liquid starts to bubble, then turn it down and gradually whisk in the polenta. Once it's all incorporated, cook gently for 2 mins until thickened. Stir in the cheddar (or parmesan) with the rest of the butter and plenty of seasoning. Spread the mixture over the baking sheet until it's about 1cm deep. Top with the tomatoes and the feta and bake at 175C (fan oven) for 25-30 mins until the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and leave for 10 mins before serving in slices.

A Cook's Plot Tip

This is lovely with a salad dressed with a sharp vinaigrette. If you can, make the tomato sauce a day ahead to allow the flavours to develop (the sauce freezes well too)

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