Mediterrean Beef Casserole with Polenta Crust


The other day I was intent on making comfort food for dinner but I didn’t want to make the same old thing which can be hard to do since comfort food is usually very traditional. To further my predicament I needed to use ground beef and a few veggies lying around before they went to waste. The first thing that pops into most people’s mind (well, at least my mind) when they think of ground beef is tacos, chili, hamburgers or spaghetti, none of which I wanted that night.

(Note: It might not look pretty but it taste INCREDIBLE!) Not everything is picture perfect- right???

I decided to do a mediterraen take on chili pie by incorporating squash, olives and zucchini with the beef, flavors of oregano, thyme and basil and a crust of polenta. I wasn’t real sure what to call this dish but I thought Medietteran Beef Casserole with a Polenta Crust might do the trick.

The crust was the perfect addition to this casserole. Slightly sweetened cornmeal with a hint of paprika adorned the top and bottom of the casserole dish and created an outstanding texture against the meat, veggies and cheese. This is definitely a dish you can do very quickly and a day ahead of time so by all means get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather while this casserole sits in your fridge just waiting to be baked!


Mediterrean Beef Casserole with Polenta Crust


  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
  • 4 ounces of monterry jack cheese
  • 2 ounces of sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound ground beef or you could use Italian sausage
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 medium squash, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper each
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 pound of roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 TBSP fresh chopped basil


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bring 3 cups water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in cornmeal; reduce heat to low, and simmer, whisking constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in cajun seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp paprika and the sugar. Now slowly incorporate 1/4 cup of the Monterrey jack cheese. Spread half of cornmeal mixture into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish and set aside the rest.

2. Brown ground chuck in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 10 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink; drain and transfer to a bowl.

3. Sauté onion, squash and zucchini in hot oil in skillet over medium heat 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in beef, tomatoes, and tomato paste, roasted tomatoes and remaining ingredients, reserving 1 TBSP of parsley; simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes. Pour beef mixture over cornmeal crust, sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with remaining cornmeal crust. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.



  1. Joanne

    All you had to say was “polenta crust” and I instantly fell in love. To me, anything with polenta counts as comfort food!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  2. kitchen flavours

    This is a delicious and satisfying meal! I have not had my dinner yet and am getting hungry just looking at the photo! I love all the ingredients and herbs, full of delicious flavour!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  3. yummychunklet

    The dish looks quite interesting and sounds pretty tasty! Polenta crust; great idea!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  4. Blond duck

    This looks like the answer to my cravings!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  5. The Slow Roasted Italian

    This sounds amazing!!! It even looks good! Like a chili square, dripping with goodness. YUM!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  6. Jihane @Sinful Sundays

    Looks like the ultimate fall/winter meal that would stick to your ribs and keep you warm! That polenta crust sounds so good and I’m loving the filling. So good! 🙂

    21 . Oct . 2011
  7. Sara @ Saucy Dipper

    I am a fan of anything that involves cornmeal and I’m in the mood for hearty one-dish meals. This looks like it’s just my style.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  8. lena

    jess, you always have superb ideas.. i mean i really find you creative..that polenta crust especially in this casserole. Check your eyes, the pictures look great!! btw, those kuihs you’re seeing on my blog are what we called the chinese , malay kind of cakes, mostly made from combination of flours, mostly are steamed type , though they are some fried and baked and the texture is very different from the western cakes.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  9. Three-Cookies

    Polenta crust – ingenious and interesting. To me the dish looks pretty and its something I would want to eat, without any doubts

    21 . Oct . 2011
  10. Alli

    YUM! I think the picture looks delicious. I love you new take on a homey classic.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  11. Valerie

    Warm and cozy casserole…..I’m making this Sunday!!!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  12. Helene

    I have never tried a dish with a Polenta crust. What a great idea. Sounds good to me.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  13. Jane

    Here you go again! Tempting me with confort food. This sounds so up my alley. How on earth do you come up with things that are just down right “delicious”??? I know you are pregnant now, does this have anything to do with your decisions? This will be a PRINT. And a make, and I will let you know.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  14. Shawn

    I don’t know if that would have made it onto plates at my house…We may have stood around eating it from the dish!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  15. Kelli

    What a great recipe! I have never cooked with polenta and now with this divine recipe I have to try it! Have a great weekend!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  16. Lisa

    This looks like a recipe my family would enjoy. I made a chili casserole the other day using cornmeal. I can’t wait to try your version, looks so healthy with all the veggies!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  17. Erica

    Ok, I am obsessed with cornbread. Seriously- its amazing! As a crust to a casserole? Deliciousness! Brilliant usage of what you had in the fridge!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  18. Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen

    Very comforting. I’m from the south and the polenta reminds me of cornbread, which always makes me happy.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  19. Eva@

    I would not make a good Italian, I do not love polenta! But making it a crust is certainly a very creative way to use it! I really love all the other flavours you have Jessica.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  20. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Wow, this is my very first time seeing polenta on top of casserole. How interesting! Asian food can be all brown and sometimes it is not photogenic sometimes. I totally understand and believe you that this is really delicious! Everything you make is delicious and we don’t have to rely on one photo – but wait, what are you talking about, they ALL look delicious to me!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  21. Sue/the view from great island

    I love Shepherd’s Pie, and Tamale Pie, and your invention sounds just as good. Using polenta as a crust is a wonderful idea—perfect comfort food.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  22. Lauren @ Lawfully Wedded Wife

    Mmmm I love casseroles like this and this looks and sounds so delicious with that polenta crust! This is something that my husband would love.

    21 . Oct . 2011
  23. Melynda@Moms Sunday Cafe

    Wow! You had me at Polenta!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  24. Candace

    You are brilliant! I am one of those people who think of the “usual” with ground beef. I would have never thought of making this dish. Love this, Jessica!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  25. Word Of Deliciousness

    Sounds like a very tasty dish. This is the first time I am visiting your blog. Very nice!

    21 . Oct . 2011
  26. Kristy

    Now this is not something I would have ever thought to throw together. So creative Jessica! Not to mention I love anything that I can throw together early in the day and just bake later. Makes that after school time so much easier. 🙂

    22 . Oct . 2011
  27. Shea

    Yum, this actually looks really good–I think the pictures are great! I love the polenta crust, I’ll have to try that!

    22 . Oct . 2011
  28. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit

    I think this looks like a perfect comfort food- I’m wishing I had some on this chilly fall evening! 🙂

    22 . Oct . 2011
  29. Mandy - The CompleteCook Book

    What an incredible idea! Well done! It looks fabulous and I can imagine how awesome it must have tasted.
    Have a happy Sunday.
    🙂 Mandy

    23 . Oct . 2011
  30. Melanie

    Great idea on using cornmeal for the crust! I usually use the mashed potatoes, I’ll try it with the cornmeal next time.

    23 . Oct . 2011
  31. sportsglutton

    Bravo! This sounds exactly like something I would make and I hate it when a picture never expresses how good something really tastes. I mean I would rather have something that doesn’t look all that appealing but has flavor galore, than the opposite.

    Btw…Congrats on LSU’s win.


    23 . Oct . 2011
  32. Linda

    Yum…that looks pretty darn tempting to me!! I love all in one casseroles – gets dinner on that table in one swoop!! Sounds fabulous and comforting!

    23 . Oct . 2011
  33. Maria

    This is definitely bokkmarked. Looks like a beautiful dish to have on a cold night in front of the fireplace. Like tonight!!! 🙂

    23 . Oct . 2011
  34. kankana

    Uuu polenta … i just love it! That would be one hearty comforting meal 🙂

    23 . Oct . 2011
  35. Blond duck

    I hope you had a delicious weekend!

    24 . Oct . 2011
  36. Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking

    Oh this looks like it would be great to eat on a cool night!

    24 . Oct . 2011
  37. nancy at good food matters

    you are on a roll with these cornmeal based crusts–two very different, but delicious ones for sure!

    25 . Oct . 2011
  38. Rose

    I am definitely trying this soon. Amazing- could I do a normal cornmeal crust instead? I dont think my picky husband would go for the polenta

    25 . Oct . 2011
  39. Greg

    Boy oh boy, look at that crust!

    27 . Oct . 2011
  40. SharleneT

    Great combination of flavors and texture! Definitely saved this to try in the solar oven. Some of our best and most delicious meals didn’t look ‘magazine pretty’ but, oh, were they good!

    27 . Oct . 2011

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