February 7, 2023

Baked Polenta with Feta, Béchamel, and Za’atar Tomatoes

Recipe: Noor Murad

“It’s not a pizza, insisted Noor, when referring to this baked polenta, which does in fact look like a giant pizza. It ended up with multiple names at the Test Kitchen such as: polenta-pizza, polizza, or polenta not-a-pizza. It really is a happy-looking pie, with its yellows and reds and wonderfully golden edges. Serve with the endive salad or anything leafy and green. You can keep this gluten-free by swapping out the flour for gluten-free flour, if you like.” — Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things


  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cook polenta
  • 2 1/3 oz pecorino romano, roughly grated (2/3 cup)
  • 6 1/3 oz Greek feta, roughly crumbled
  • 1/4 oz oregano sprigs (try to use the softer sprigs)

Za’atar Tomatoes

  • 14 oz datterini or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp za’atar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup oregano leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and black pepper


Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Make za’atar tomatoes. Put tomatoes, oil, vinegar, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and good grind of pepper into medium baking dish, roughly 12 x 8 inches. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until tomatoes have just burst but aren’t completely falling apart. Remove foil, gently stir in za’atar and sugar, and let cool completely. Once cool, stir in herbs (gently, so as not to break up tomatoes).
  3. Turn heat up to 475°F. Line large baking sheet roughly 16 x 12 inches in size with parchment paper.
  4. Put half the butter into medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once melted, add flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 30 seconds or until it smells like popcorn. Slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups of the milk, whisking continuously to avoid any lumps, then add garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and plenty of pepper, turn heat down to medium, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until quite thick and no longer floury tasting. Set aside and cover with piece of parchment paper, to prevent skin from forming.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare polenta by first putting remaining 1 2/3 cups of milk, water, 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, 1¼ teaspoons of salt, and a good grind of pepper into medium sauté pan (or saucepan) over medium-high heat. Once it gently bubbles, turn heat down to medium-low, slowly add polenta, whisking continuously to incorporate, and cook for 2 minutes, to thicken. Add pecorino and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and stir with spatula until incorporated. Quickly transfer to prepared baking sheet and spread out in large oblong shape about 1/2 inch thick and 15 inches in length. Spoon béchamel over top and spread it so it covers the surface, leaving 1/2-inch rim exposed around edges. Top evenly with feta and oregano sprigs and bake for 22 minutes, or until golden and bubbling on top and starting to brown around edges. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Spoon about half za’atar tomatoes on top of baked polenta, serving rest in bowl alongside. Use pizza cutter to easily cut polenta into slabs and serve warm.

Za’atar Tomatoes

  • Keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • Try spooning these onto bruschetta, using them as a sauce for pasta.

Elena Heatherwick


Excerpted from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi. © 2022 Yotam Ottolenghi LLP. Photographs © 2022 by Elena Heatherwick. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.