Prep polenta: 1. Preheat oven to 350. 2. Bring 4 cups of water with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil. 3. Gradually whisk in polenta. Turn down heat to a gentle simmer; stir polenta for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 4. Place a 13 x 9 glass baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. 5. Pour polenta mixture into baking dish; bake approximately 1 hour or until polenta is very thick. 6. Cool to room temperature, 1-2 hours (polenta will become firm). DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; chill. Prep tomato sauce: 1. Chop onion, garlic, basil. 2. In a blender, puree 1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes with pine nuts until very smooth, ~1 minute. 3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper. Saute until onion is soft, ~5 minutes. 4. Stir in: remaining crushed tomatoes, 1 tablespoon chopped basil, wine, oregano and tomato/pine nut mixture from blender. 5. Simmer until flavors blend, 5-6 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper to taste. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and chill. Prep: 1. Preheat oven to 325°F. 2. Cut polenta lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 6 squares. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. 3. Working in batches, add polenta squares. 4. Sauté until crisp and beginning to color, about 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer polenta to small baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining polenta, adding oil to skillet as needed. 5. Divide polenta among plates. 6. Top with warm tomato sauce.
This meal is definitely a weekend meal when you may have a bit more time in your kitchen! We like to bake our polenta and make the tomato sauce the day before we plan on serving this dish. Then all we are left to do before serving is to slice the chilled polenta, pan-sear and rewarm the tomato sauce. We love to garnish this with fresh basil.