This dish makes an excellent appetizer, served in place of a pasta course. The polenta can be layered with any cheese— or combination of cheeses— you choose, or the cheese may be eliminated altogether. Also, you may use any vegetables you like, but in the Istrian tradition, Savoy cabbage and polenta are partners. Sometimes, a grilled sausage was sliced and added to the dish and it became a main course.
- 1 recipe Basic Polenta (see here)
- 4 quarts salted water
- 2 medium russet (Idaho) potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 small head (2 pounds) Savoy cabbage
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 ½ cups Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled or Fontina cheese, coarsely grated, or a mixture of the two (about 6 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Prepare the Basic Polenta. While it is still hot, pour it into a lightly greased 9 x 2-inch cake pan. Let stand until cool, then refrigerate until completely chilled, 4 to 5 hours.
In a large pot over high heat bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove any wilted or yellow leaves and cut out the core from the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into 1 inch cubes.
Add the cabbage to the pot and cook until both vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the vegetables thoroughly.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the cabbage-potato mixture and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, turning the vegetables occasionally, until the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables begin to sizzle. Mash the vegetables coarsely with the spoon as you turn them, leaving plenty of lumps. Be careful not to scorch the mixture, just cook it until the liquid is evaporated. Remove the garlic cloves and add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Invert the cooled polenta cake onto a cutting board. With a long, thin knife, slice the cake into 3 even horizontal layers. Place the top layer upside down in the bottom of a buttered 10 x 4-inch spring form pan. Top with one half of the potato-cabbage mixture and one half of the gorgonzola. Top the cheese with the center layer and top that with the remaining potato-cabbage mixture and gorgonzola. Place the bottom layer of the polenta cake upside down over the tort and press gently. Brush the top of the tort with the butter and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Bake the tort until the top layer of cheese is lightly browned and the tort is heated through, about 40 minutes. Remove the tort and cool 5 minutes. Remove the sides of the spring form pan and cut the torte into slices to serve.
NOTE: If you do not have the necessary cake and spring form pans, the tort can be made as follows: Pour the hot polenta out onto a cutting board and let it cool until very firm, about 30 minutes. Cut the cooled polenta into ½ inch slices. Arrange one third of the slices to cover the bottom of a buttered 11-inch oval (or similar size) baking dish. Arrange one half of the potato-cabbage mixture over the polenta and sprinkle it with one half of the gorgonzola. Make one more layer like the first using half of the remaining polenta and all of the potato-cabbage mixture and gorgonzola. Top with the remaining polenta slices. Spread the top of the casserole with the butter and sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bake until the top is golden brown and the casserole is heated through, about 40 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve hot.