Cannellini and Broccoli Pie with Polenta

After eating too much meat earlier in the week, I craved a light dinner with vegetables. When thumbing through my Instagram, I stumbled across a post which included an entrée at City House in Nashville made with white beans, broccoli and cornbread that took hold of my imagination.

This “Shepherd’s Pie” recipe contains no meat and reinvents the City House dish I fondly remember from last Autumn with nearly the same ingredients. I recommend a sturdy 12″ cast iron skillet for best results. Keep a close eye on the amount of stock added and reduced with the beans and broccoli. If too much stock remains in the skillet, the stock will “plume” upward through the polenta while cooking and create a soggy crust. When broiled, the butter and kosher salt create a crisp crust on the polenta. For a vegan pie, brush or spray olive or grapeseed oil instead of butter over the polenta in one of the last steps before broiling. 

Paul initially greeted my proposed creation for dinner with a raised eyebrow but loved the final result as much as I did. He chose a 2014 Alphonse Mellot Les Romains Sancerre with lemony, crisp minerality to pair with this savory dish, but an un-oaked Chardonnay would also complement the flavors here. 

This re-imagined, all-vegetable Shepherd’s Pie is simple, inexpensive and tasty. If you try it, please share the results of your version.

Cannellini and Broccoli Pie with Polenta

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients: 

  • Two heads of broccoli, cut into ~1/2  inch florets, stems discarded
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped and divided
  • 1 cup yellow polenta
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, divided
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp cracked black pepper, divided
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt divided three ways
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cans cannellini (14.5 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 4 tbsp sweet butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam broccoli florets for 7 minutes over boiling water in a pot and remove from heat.
  3. Bring 3 cups vegetable broth to a boil  in a medium sized pot and pour in polenta, half of chopped garlic, half of oregano, 1/3 kosher salt, and half of black pepper. Stir thoroughly to ensure polenta does not clump and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and stir often for 5-7 minutes until cooked. Turn heat off.
  4. Heat oil to medium heat in a 12″ cast iron skillet. Add onion and stir until onion is covered in oil. Add garlic, thyme, other half of oregano, 1/3 kosher salt, half of cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir thoroughly. Add beans and 1 cup vegetable stock to skillet. Stir thoroughly. Bring to boil. Add broccoli, stir thoroughly and bring to a simmer. Allow the beans to cook until much of the stock evaporates but the beans are still wet.
  5. Spread beans and broccoli into an even layer in the pan. Pour the polenta over the beans and broccoli and spread evenly to cover with spatula. Use a large serving fork or cookie cutters to add a decorative design to the surface of the polenta. Doing so will create raised ridges which will crisp to a golden brown in the last few minutes in the oven.
  6. Place skillet into the oven for 20 minutes on middle rack. Melt butter on low heat in a small sauce pan.
  7. Remove skillet from oven and pour butter over the top of the polenta. Sprinkle remaining kosher salt over polenta. Return skillet to middle rack in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  8. Place skillet on the second rack level from the top of the oven. You want a slow broil. Set oven to broil for 5-7 minutes to bring top of polenta to a golden brown color. Watch the polenta broil to make sure it does not burn. Broiling temperatures will vary by oven. 
  9. Remove skillet from oven and allow pie to rest for 5-10 minutes. Cut slices into the pie and serve in flat bowls with a white wine. Enjoy!

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