Monday, January 29, 2007

Polenta Lasagna

Okay - this is more of a method than a recipe. The basic idea is to layer polenta and yummy fillings (this week I used: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, red peppers, and green garbanzo beans - goodness!) to make a lasagna-like casserole. The trick is to have enough interesting flavors and textures. The basic method is this:

Polenta Lasagna (for one 9"x9" pan - enough for 4 generous servings)

  • 1 batch polenta - made with 1 cup polenta meal and 6 cups liquid - see below
  • 3 cups of fillings (this can be a varied of things, enough to make 3 cups total): cooked sausage, pepperoni, chopped or sliced salami or ham, sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, chopped black olives, cooked and chopped spinach or other green, cooked vegetables, diced tomatoes, leftover pasta sauce, etc. etc. etc. You get the point? Raid the fridge.
  • 1/2 - 1 cup shredded or grated cheese (the richer your other ingredients, the less cheese you'll want/need)

Layer about 1/3 of the polenta in the bottom of a 9"x9" (or similarly sized) baking dish. Layer half of your ingredients over the polenta, sprinkle about a third of your cheese over the filling. Put on one more layer of polenta, vegetables and cheese. Top with a final layer of polenta and cheese.

Cover and refrigerate until ready. When ready to bake: bake covered with foil at 375 for 25 minutes, uncover and bake another 20 minutes or until bubbly. That is it.

Easy Oven Polenta

This is a method from Paula Wolfert that I read about in Fine Cooking magazine. Dunno why everyone doesn't make their polenta this way.

  • 1 cup polenta meal
  • 4-6 cups liquid: water and/or broth (The more liquid, the looser the polenta. Use the 4 cup amount for a stiffer polenta - the kind you'd grill or fry. Use 6 cups for a pourable polenta - better for a base for a ragu, or for this lasagna.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set the oven to 350. Put all the ingredients in a baking dish large enough to hold them (I use a roasting pan) and stir everything together. Gently (this will be splashy) put the pan in the oven. Every 10 minutes or so, reach in and stir what's the pan around to make sure nothing is sticking and everything is coming together well. (Be careful, this is sloshy stuff and nothing burns like a splash of polenta on your arm.) After about half an hour, it should look like polenta: creamy, smooth, not lumpy. If it's too stiff, you could gently work in more water or broth to loosen it up.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can add grated cheese now if you want. I have also used bottled pesto or roasted red pepper spread to add a different flavor. If you want to mold it to cut into slices to grill or fry, pour it into a loaf pan and let it sit until cool (a day or two ahead is great). If you want to use it in the polenta lasagna, go ahead and layer!

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