Zucchini Polenta Tart Recipe

Zucchini Polenta Tart

I have a particular soft spot for polenta and anything cornmeal.

Unfortunately, they are not at all common in France : I have occasionally seen polenta served at restaurants (and I will reliably dart onto any dish that mentions it as a component, especially if it claims to be croustillante), but it is rather hard to find in French food stores. You need to go to organic stores — where you will find instant organic polenta, passable but not stellar — or to some small Italian stores, where you will likely be charged an arm, a leg and the left ear of your firstborn for what was, originally, peasant food.

Another solution is to have your two best friends get some for you on their trip to Rome, or a blogger-friend bring some from Ticino as she comes to Paris for a few days (thanks again Theresa!), but these aren’t sources you can rely on year round, of course.

The idea for a tart in which the base would be a disk of oven-baked polenta had been on my mind for a little while, and this recent profusion of excellent quality polenta in my happy kitchen cabinets (oh they certainly can’t complain of deprivation, no) was the perfect occasion to put it in practice, using Marie-Laure and Laurence’s Italian polenta with dried porcini.

There is something singularly satisfying about imagining a dish in your mind, making up the recipe as you go, and have it turn out even better than you expected : this tart was everything I hoped it would be, pretty and appetizing, its base golden and crispy outside, but moist and nicely mealy inside (with embedded mushrooms as a bonus), the layer of thinly sliced zucchini well-seasoned, its flavor wonderfully teased by the sharpness of the fresh parmesan. It also made for a very nice lunch the next day, and would be a great brunch item too.

Zucchini Polenta Tart

– 1kg (2.2 pounds) zucchini
– 250g (1 1/2 cups) cornmeal (also sold as polenta) (not precooked, preferably stone-ground, possibly with dried mushrooms)
– 50g (1/2 cup) freshly grated parmesan
olive oil
herbes de Provence (or a mix of dried thyme, basil, oregano, and rosemary)
salt, pepper

Cook the cornmeal according to package directions, until it gets to a rather thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

While the cornmeal cooks, rinse the zucchini, trim the ends, and slice thinly, preferably using the mandoline you got from your parents for your twenty-fifth birthday. Heat a little olive oil in a large pan, add in the zucchini slices, sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and herbes de provence, and toss to coat. Put the lid on, and cook on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the zucchini is just cooked but not so much that it falls apart. Stir gently from time to time while it cooks to make sure all the slices cook evenly, but make sure not to turn them to mush. Transfer to a colander, and leave to drain.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Pour the cooked cornmeal in a greased 25-cm (10-inch) tart pan, preferably with a removable bottom.

Put the cornmeal into the oven for about 15 minutes, until the top turns crusty and golden. Remove from the oven and pop the disk of cornmeal out of the pan. Put it on a cookie sheet, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, until the sides are also crusty and golden. Remove from the oven. Flip the disk of cornmeal (the not-yet-crispy side will face upwards, the crispy side downwards) and return to the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes, until the disk is crisp all over.

Remove from the oven, and arrange the zucchini slices harmoniously over the top of the cornmeal disk. Return into the oven for about 10 minutes, top with parmesan, cut in slices and serve — warm, at room temperature or cold.

Cooking/baking time: 1 h 20 min

  • cheesy chilaquiles

    Very corny recipe! But corny in the best possible way. I am going to make this very soon.

    I have a tip for folks who don’t know too much about making “regular” (not instant) polenta. Use a microwaveable covered casserole. After bringing your water or broth to a boil and incorporating the cornmeal (1 part polenta to 4 parts liquid) by whisking it into the liquid, transfer your casserole (covered) from stove-top to microwave oven and cook at a low power level for about half an hour. No scorching, no stirring and no sticking. Safe and sound and simmering in the microwave your polenta will cook flawlessly. It may require one stir to incorporate collected condensation before being served (or used for the tart recipe) but, otherwise – that’s that. This method mimics the use a double boiler and frees the cook to attend to other tasks.

  • Excellent tip on the microwave casserole, thanks.

    We have a bit of the arm-and-leg going on occasionally even though cornmeal is at every corner grocery here. Weird how a peasant food from another country is so much more chic (and therefore often spendy) than our own all American cornmeal mush.

  • i love your site and i had to comment. right now i’m reading margaret visser’s “much depends on dinner” and she notes that the french never took to corn, regarding that food fit only for animals. hmph!

  • When I lived in England twenty-odd years ago, the English pretty much had the same attitude.

  • The one thing about seeing polenta so often in Ticino – as peasant food – spilling out of supermarket shelves, served up plain at the grotti (not even speckled with dried porcini!) – is that you tend to stay terribly uncreative with it. This is one tart I have to try, I’m salivating over that golden crisp and what must be a great contrast with savoury zucchini!

  • Hi! I’m so glad I found yr blog.

    I’ll be making this for my pal Annette; she and I cook for picky eaters day in and day out, so this and a bottle of good wine will be the perfect thing this week when we “take the night off”.

  • This looks fantastic… so creative! I’ll definitely be trying this before the zucchini, along with the summer, has died.


  • I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and wanted to let you know how much I enjoy it. I keep running into your blog :) Magazine, newspaper article, other blogs, BP. Every time I see your website listed somewhere, I think, “I know her!” Was just in Paris twice this year and loved my time there. Even though I’m a vegetarian, I get lots of ideas from you and enjoy your site.

  • I’ve got my method for cooking polenta, and think I’ll stick to it http://blogs.salon.com/0001754/2003/02/20.html

    But I’m always looking for delightful ways to prepare zucchini. Might have to give this a whirl. Thanks.

  • Yummy Clotilde – this looks superb!

  • Next weekend I’m coming back to Italy for a few days: if you need some polenta at an affordable price or anything else, you only have to ask [seriously!].

  • i love polenta too, and i happen to have a husband who’s not too keen on it, unfortunately. i keep trying, though. made a wonderful concoction involving lots of garlic and parmesan the other day which was well received. will give yours a try as well, of course, any trick to serve polenta suits me!!!

  • kim

    I just tried to do what you did with polenta, but obviously didn’t cook it long enough and didn’t give it a pre-cook before I topped it. I will definitely have to try your technique!

  • Kim

    just a thought: to make minature versions of your baked polenta, you can use egg rings, or rings of capsicum to bake in instead of a pan or tin.

  • Cheesy – Thanks for the microwave polenta tip, it sounds good!

    Jeannette – That book certainly sounds interesting, I’ll have to look for it at the bookstore…

    Emanuele – Many, many thanks for the offer. I can’t think of anything in particular right now, but I may take you up on it next time! Thanks!!

    Kim (1) – Yes! I saw your post and thought wow, blog synchronicity again! :)

    Kim (2) – Mini tarts! What an excellent, excellent idea! I happen to have metal circles that would work great for this.

  • Lucie

    Salut Clothilde. Je suis une expatriee francaise en Asie et cherchait des alternatives aux pates et riz. J’ai trouve de la polenta dans un magazin bio (les produits frais europeens sont rares ici alors je me rabats sur les secs) et me demandait comment la servir a mon mari qui n’aime que le curry..on verra ce que ca donne!
    le blog est vraiment cool et je compte le visiter souvent pour des idees (moi aussi ingenieure informatique qui pense a se reconvertir.. mais mamam a temps plein pour l’instant). Keep it up, it’s great.

  • Di

    Bonjour! Just started reading your blog… and I am in heaven! Also… just wanted to let you know, I’m a US girl, but in Paris every month, and sometimes once a week! So, after reading your zucchinin/polenta tart from the archives, I realized that should you need something… like polenta which is all of 65c. a bag here… just send an email and I’d be happy to bring it over to you! It would be my pleasure! And the least I can do for the delight of all your recipes. Thank you for so much yummy food! Let me know if ever I can bring you anything. And I can bring just about anything! Trust me!

  • Michael

    I have been using the microwave polenta suggestion for a couple of years now. Simply unbeatable! An alternative plan that I use is to cook on high for 10 minutes, then stir. Repeat 3 or 4 times. Voila–Polenta!

  • Thank you for this recipe! I appreciate you featuring such a tasty gluten-free dish. I made it for my family last week and they all enjoyed it.

    I posted my version of it on my blog today. Your blog has definitely been an inspiration. Thank you again!

  • KJill

    This was a bit of a challenge recipe for me as I am not really fond of what we Americans call corn meal mush. However, as so often happens its all in the way its prepared. My only previous experience with cooked cornmeal is from my MIL who cooks her corn meal mush with sugar to a gelatinous goo, cools it in a loaf pan, slices and fries it then covers it with tons of maple syrup – too greasy and sweet for me. Going savory and crisp without being greasy made all the difference! I found it took a lot longer to get my polenta crust crispy and browned but I cooked up my cornmeal with almost no fat in it – perhaps it needed some butter? I also sauteed two portabello mushrooms with a little garlic and some of the herbes de Provence and layered that on top of the zucchini for the final baking. I was tempted to use Feta cheese rather than the parmesan called for but opted for the parma cheese and am glad I did. I think there are many possibilities to be explored with this one. Thanks for the inspiration to explore another aspect of the a food I thought I didn’t like.

  • What an interesting idea, polenta tart. Love it!

  • Stacy

    Tried this tonight, only I didn’t cook the polenta in a pan first and as I watched my neat little circle of polenta flatten and spread I knew there was no way I would ever flip it! So I just put the topping on and ate it like that. It was still soft, but it tasted good! I will definitely try the recipe *properly* next time, as the thought of a crispy crust was what compelled me to make this!!

  • You had me at polenta, but now that I saw the photo, I have to make this! A couuple/few years ago I made pizza crust using polenta. It was awesome. I’m always looking for new ways to use polenta. Thanks so much!

    Love your blog!

    • Thanks Carla, do report back if you try it!

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