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Polenta ‘Pizza’ with Pancetta, Spinach, and Poached Egg

February 22, 2009


One of my weekly online reads is Mark Bittman’s column in the New York Times, The Minimalist, which appears every Wednesday in the Dining section. His columns are always full of great ideas for simple, flavorful food, and the videos that accompany the columns are a fun watch. This past week’s column was all about savory breakfasts, and in particular, incorporating more whole grains into your breakfast routine.


And the leading photo: polenta breakfast pizza. Topped with sauteed spinach and pancetta. With a little cheese melted in. In other words, all things that I am completely ga-ga for, combined into one, and served in a preparation (pizza) you know I adore.

pretty little coarse polenta grains, sunny yellow and corny (in a good way)


stream the polenta into the boiling liquid


pour it out – quick quick, chop chop


smooth it into a circle (you might want to use a bigger baking sheet than I did!)


spoon on the deliciousness


I have not been able to stop thinking about making this dish since the second I finished reading the column, actually. So this past weekend it was the breakfast (well, more like brunch) du jour. I used a combination of grated mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese, just because I thought that would be pretty tasty with the sunny corn flavor of the polenta and the sauteed spinach and pancetta.

right out of the oven


And because I wanted to gild the lily that much more, I topped each slice with a poached egg. It’s a small twist, but in my mind, was a perfect addition. The yolk made a delicious sauce over the sauteed greens.

the yolks kind of look like googly eyes


oozy and delicious


I would eat something like this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Actually, every time we eat polenta (quite often, lately) and/or poached eggs over something, I say to B “mmm, I could eat this every day and never get tired of it.” He smiles knowingly, because he knows I like variety — I probably couldn’t eat the same thing every day without getting tired of it — but strictly hypothetically speaking, I most certainly could!


Polenta ‘Pizza’ with Pancetta, Spinach, and Poached Egg

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe

You can make the polenta the night before, chill it on the baking sheet overnight, and finish the preparation in the morning.

view printable recipe

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for pan
1/2 cup milk, preferably whole
kosher or sea salt
1 cup coarse cornmeal
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped pancetta
1 pound spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese, mixed
4 large eggs (preferably organic)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and brush a layer of olive oil on a baking sheet.

Pour 2 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking constantly as it’s added so no lumps form. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until the polenta is thick and it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. The consistency should be that of thick oatmeal; if it’s too thick, you can whisk in a little water.

Stir 1 tablespoon oil into the cooked polenta, then spoon it out onto the oiled baking sheet. You’ll need to work fairly quickly as the polenta sets up as it cools. Spread the polenta into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle the round with salt and pepper, let it cool down so it’s no longer hot and then cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill and firm up the polenta, at least 1 hour (you can make the polenta a day ahead and chill overnight if you like.)

When you’re ready to bake the polenta, put it in the 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes, until it just begins to brown a little on the edges. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is browned and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to remove the onion and pancetta to a bowl. Set aside.

Cook the spinach in the same skillet until it releases its water and the pan becomes dry. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a simmer, for poaching the eggs. Take the polenta out of the oven, spread the grated cheese over the top, then spread the sauteed onions, pancetta, and spinach on top of the cheese. Put the pizza back into the oven while you poach the eggs. I usually poach my eggs for 3 minutes in simmering water; the polenta should be ready (cheese melted) in the same amount of time.

To serve, cut the polenta into 4 wedges and top each with a poached egg. Drizzle each portion with a little more olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2009 10:14 pm

    I knew what it was the instant I saw the photo! This one caught my eye last Wednesday too, Amy. And it looks so delicious! You (and Bittman) have sold me.

  2. February 22, 2009 10:48 pm

    Wow, it looks great!

  3. February 23, 2009 12:53 am

    That’s a great idea for using polenta. What can’t you make into a pizza?!

  4. February 23, 2009 4:02 am

    That’s gone straight into my must-try folder!

  5. February 23, 2009 6:48 am

    Polenta, greens, eggs in the morning! Add in a cup of coffee and I think you’ve got the perfect breakfast. This might be one of those dishes that I make extra polenta for dinner just so I can enjoy this killer breakfast combo.

  6. February 23, 2009 8:52 am


  7. February 23, 2009 11:03 am

    Gluten free pizza that looks delicious? I’m in!

  8. February 23, 2009 6:21 pm

    They do look like googly eyes! The finished plate looks beautiful. The egg on top is a wonderful touch – egg, pancetta and spinach together just seems heavenly to me. Kudos to you and to Bittman.

  9. February 23, 2009 6:43 pm

    Oh wow! I love polenta and this dish look so delicious!! I can’t wait to try this. YUM! (Love your blog, by the way. So glad I found it!)

  10. February 24, 2009 10:47 am

    This looks great. I’ve become such a huge fan of polenta. I know this is sort of sacriligous, but do you think you’d still get a good effect from the pre-made polenta logs? I’d heat ’em up and spread ’em out to get the same pizza effect.

  11. February 24, 2009 11:44 am

    I’m so very hungry and this looks amazing!

  12. February 24, 2009 6:42 pm

    What a fantastic way to cook polenta and greens ! yummy !!!

  13. February 24, 2009 10:57 pm

    ok, i wanted to make this the first time i saw it on bittman, and now? even more 🙂

  14. February 25, 2009 9:02 am

    This looks fantastic. So creative for a Saturday morning brunch with Mimosas!

  15. February 26, 2009 8:08 am

    I read Mark Bittman’s recipe too and bookmarked it to try. Your pictures make it look wonderful! Especially love the idea of a gooey poached egg on the top.

    It’s a great idea to start eating vegetables at breakfast time instead of waiting until dinner time to try and fit in five portions.

  16. February 27, 2009 4:14 pm

    Thanks for the great post. Polenta with eggs and bacon is a favorite breakfast of mine. You’ve made it even better with all that spinach! Love the googly eyes.

  17. Katie permalink
    March 4, 2009 11:15 am

    We made a version of this for breakfast over the weekend and it was wonderful. We didn’t bake our pizza, but instead had it creamier (almost the texture of oatmeal). It was fabulous. The yolk of the egg was a perfect complement to the polenta.

  18. March 12, 2009 6:26 pm

    I’m so glad I clicked on this post, because this recipe looks FAB. I must try this soon! I agree that a poached egg over greens is delightful. And polenta ALWAYS makes me happy. Isn’t it wonderful that it makes so well with cheese?

  19. March 12, 2009 6:27 pm

    Opps, I meant to say it MELDS so well with cheese. 😛

  20. Tania permalink
    March 16, 2009 6:18 pm

    I made this over the weekend for my daughter and husband and we all loved it! It was a little rich, but so good and something different for a weekend breakfast. I have never worked with cornmeal before, but I really like it. Thank you for sharing.

  21. March 21, 2009 6:37 pm

    I am so intrigued by this recipe–polenta pizza! I absolutely love the gooey egg on top. Will definitely have to try this.

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