There are a lot of reasons that I love this new recipe that we tried last week. It’s been on my list of must make’s for quite a while now and I am now kicking myself for not just making it happen sooner. It’s one of those perfect meals to put into your meal rotation: simple ingredients, inexpensive, fairly easy and very filling.
It also is….drum-roll please….meat-less!
With 3-4 eggs coming in from the ducks every day now and the cost of meat going up and up I am always looking for a filling recipe that will satisfy our protein needs and not feel like breakfast for dinner or beans every time we do a meat-less dish. I have to admit I got a raised eyebrow from Kevin when I mentioned poached eggs with tomato sauce as dinner and I thought it might be a little unusual myself but it turns out that it wasn’t weird at all.
Technically my inspiration recipe was a recipe called Shakshuka. I will preface this recipe by this disclaimer that this is not true Shakshuka and if you are looking for that definitely check out Smitten Kitchen’s version of it here. The basic premise though is poached eggs in a spicy savory tomato sauce served with bread or pita.
When I decided to make this for our Friday night relax dinner I knew I didn’t have all the ingredients in her recipe so decided to take it a more Italian twist and use regular shredded cheese and make a big pot of polenta to go with it. Turns out it’s hard to ruin this dish so feel free to experiment with what you have on hand.
Start off with a basic homemade tomato sauce. Or if you are cooking with what you’ve got like I usually am, grab a can of store bought sauce, toss in a can of diced tomatoes and chop up some fresh mushrooms, onions, and garlic for it. You can either chop up a few jalepeno’s and add them in at this point or give it a good dose of cayenne pepper. I was concerned about Noah’s ability to handle too spicy so I went a little weak on the spice but next time he will get his own version so we can sweat it out with the jalepenos.
Season liberally with your italian seasonings (basil, oregano, thyme, etc) either fresh or dried and plenty of salt and pepper. With that handled we can leave it to simmer and turn our attention to our creamy polenta.
Polenta gets a bad rap sometimes. Which is really unfortunate because it doesn’t deserve it at all. When I was in culinary school we were lectured on the importance of constantly stirring your polenta and we whisked and whisked and whisked until our arms almost fell off. I made it once for a family dinner and nearly made my mother’s arm fall off from giving that task to her.
With these memories in mind I have strayed away from this perfectly delicious side dish for lack of desire to exert that much effort at the end of a long day. Tsk tsk.
I determined that there must be an easier way and set out to discover a new recipe for it. After coming to the conclusion that you could make polenta in 3 minutes or 40 minutes depending on your recipe I settled on a happy medium of about 15-20 minutes of occasional whisking and adding in more water and milk to bring it to my desired consistency.
I tossed in a handful of cheese and seasoned lightly. The verdict? You should definitely make polenta soon! It was smooth and creamy and so filling that we couldn’t even finish our plates once it hit us.
Not to mention the fact that Polenta is literally just a bit of cornmeal with milk and water and cheese or butter. Hello budget friendly dinner stretcher! Cooking for a crowd of hungry dudes? Time to toss the pasta and go with polenta next time.
Traditional Shakshuka is served without polenta and lots of crusty bread or homemade pita’s. I think a nice homemade Naan would go quite nicely with it as well. We had some day old bakery bread so I crisped it up under the broiler while the polenta sputtered away on the stove.
Finally it was time for the eggs. I went with three thinking we would each have just one but you could easily use up 5 or more in a full sized pan like this so that your leftovers get some egg goodness as well. Crack them into the sauce gently being sure not to break the yolks and cover the pan until they are set. One of mine never looked setup and I kept cooking them which left us with disappointing solid yolks in all of them, I would say at a low simmer no more than 5 minutes or so will give you perfect runny yolks.
Top with some basil or flat leaf parsley…preferably lots if your garden is churning it out. Mine is practically dead and looking pathetic, so we got three leaves.
Top the polenta with sauce and an egg or two and dig in!
- 1 can store bought tomato sauce
- 1 large can diced tomatoes with liquid
- 1 onion
- 5-8 mushrooms chopped
- 2 tb garlic (or to taste)
- Italian seasoning
- Cayenne pepper
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup milk
- 1½-2½ cups water
- ½-1½ cups shredded cheese
- 3-5 eggs
- Make homemade tomato sauce. Season and spice to taste. Simmer 15-20 minutes.
- Crack eggs onto top of simmering sauce, cover and cook five minutes. Serve immediately with polenta.
- Make polenta:
- Whisk cornmeal, milk and 1 cup of water together in pot. Over low-med heat bring up to bubbling stirring often. Continue cooking over low whisking every few minutes. Add water slowly as needed to keep consistency thick but still liquidy. Cook for 10-30 minutes to desired consistency adding water or milk as desired.
- Remove from heat, season and stir in shredded cheese til combined.