Polenta Pizza with Garlicky Broccoli Rape

polenta-cake-with-broccoli-rapeIt’s the end of winter (we hope!) and the garden is still full of various winter vegetables.

I love bitter vegetables, including broccoli rape which is called various things here in Italy: broccoletti, cima di rape and friarielli. It’s interesting to me that so many winter vegetables are bitter; I wonder if we need just those types of vitamins to help us through the cold months?

I also love corn. In every way you can fix it. Polenta is basically what we Americans call corn meal mush. Now I know that doesn’t sound as sexy as polenta, but it is the same thing.

Now, to me, one of the kitchen’s nicest marriages is polenta with broccoli rape. Such a wonderful balance of flavor and texture and a great filling meal that’s nutritious too!

Baked Polenta “Pizza”


A variation on polenta is this “pizza” as it’s called here. Cook the polenta as normal, but with a bit less water until it’s really thick and solid, then put the mass in a well oiled (olive oil) cake tin, drizzle with more olive oil and bake it in a medium oven until lovely and crispy on the outside. You then slice it as a cake and serve hot.

This is a traditional dish from many of the southern regions, Campania, Molise and Abruzzo. In Naples I’ve had it with the addition of finely chopped chicory. Often wild greens are added. Not traditional, but delicious is the addition of crispy pancetta bits.

This works well if you want to make polenta ahead of time as you can bake the pizza even a day later. I’d like to note that in the southern states of the USA, corn and bitter greens are pretty common combination as in the southern regions of Italy…it’s such a small world!

I like to cook vegetables so they retain their color, vitamins and flavor.

This is a delicious way you can cook spinach, kale, chicory swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

Wash and remove the tough stems from the broccoli rape. Let drip dry in a colander.


In the widest pan you have, very gently (low low heat) sauté some whole peeled garlic cloves and some whole dried chili peppers.

Watch and stir constantly. In about 5 minutes, the garlic will start to turn brown. When it’s nicely browned, but not dark brown as then the garlic becomes bitter, take out both the garlic and the peppers with a slotted spoon.

You now have an olive oil that is flavored. Not too garlicky or peppery, but just enough to add subtle flavor.

When the garlic cloves are brown like this, take them out of the pan


Add the broccoli rape and turn up the heat to medium high or high. Add a bit of salt and sauté, tossing now and then until the vegetable is wilted and tender. Basically it cooks in the water that remains from washing.

Serve hot with the hot crispy polenta cake.









2 comments to Polenta Pizza with Garlicky Broccoli Rape

  • judy williams usa

    do you have a recipe for cornmeal mush? or can I find any polenta recipe?

    thank you so much

    • Hi Judy.
      Basically it’s just cornmeal cooked in salted water until thick, like a thick porridge. How much water to how much corn meal seems to depend entirely on the brand, whether it’s stone ground, whether the cornmeal is in bigger pieces or smaller (more like a coarse flour) But generally, for 4 people it’s about 2-2.5 liters (67-84 fluid ounces) of water to one half kilo (about 2 3/4 cups) of cornmeal. I personally prefer the texture and flavor of coarse, organic stone ground cornmeal. If when cooking, it seems too thick, just add a ladle of very hot water and stir it in so it’s creamy again.

      Every recipe I’ve ever seen says to boil the water and salt, then very gradually whisk in the cornmeal in a stream, then stir and stir until done, which can be anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Well, I tend to be doing at least 3 things at once and in my kitchen this method invariable ends up with nasty little lumps because I’m not giving it my full attention, so I add the cornmeal to COLD water, then heat it up slowly, stirring now and then. Once the cornmeal starts to thicken (when the water gets hot), you do need to pay close attention, stirring fairly constantly, in the same direction, moving your spoon up and down so as to avoid those lumps.
      Once the “porridge” is nice and thick (and tough to stir) you’ll know when it’s done because it separates from the pan sides. You can then serve it immediately or pour it out into a pan to cool to slice and then grill or saute hours or even a few days later.
      The pan that you cooked it in will have a thin layer of polenta stuck to the bottom and a bit up the sides. Just let it soak in plain cold water for a few hours, and the stuck bit comes right off…much easier than scrubbing!
      Happy eating!

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