I have some major blog catching up to do (what else is new?!), but I wanted to start with this because it was probaby the most amazing thing we've eaten recently. As I've mentioned before, I belong to a pretty amazing parenting message board. Someone posted recently asking what to do with polenta and my friend Heather (who could potentially be one of my BFFs if she and her husband weren't Alabama fans and we didn't live across the country from each other) said she had made polenta lasagna. She filled me in on the basics of how she'd done it, and since I had a tube of polenta in the pantry I slated it for dinner this week. I was pretty giddy about trying it. Heather didn't have an exact recipe of what she did, so I followed her lead and just winged it as I went along.
Heather's Polenta Lasagna
1 tube polenta (mine was 18 ounces)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
3 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced and sauteed
Heat large skillet sprayed with non-stick spray over medium high heat. Slice polenta into 1/2-inch rounds and place in skillet. Cook 4-5 minutes per side, then flip. Remove from skillet and chill in the refrigerator.
Remove sausage from casings and brown in a large pot. Once cooked through, remove sausage and add onions and garlic. Cook until browned (you may need to deglaze the pan...I used a bit of beef broth). Add tomatoes to the pot (do not drain tomatoes) and add sausage back to the pot. Let simmer 2-3 hours for maximum flavor.
Once polenta slices have cooled, remove them from the fridge and cut the slices in half.
Preheat oven to 375.
Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon some sauce into the bottom of the dish and spread it around. Place a single layer of polenta slices on top of the sauce to cover bottom of the dish. Spoon sauce to cover polenta layer. Top with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spread sauteed mushrooms over the cheese. Repeat layers with remaining polenta slices, sauce, and mozzarella, finishing with mozzarella.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and bubbling. For best results, let the lasagna sit for 5-10 minutes after removing from the oven.
This was SO EASY. It was really a lot easier than regular lasagna because the polenta cooks a lot faster than lasagna noodles. Plus since it bakes in a smaller dish you aren't eating lasagna for days and days. Don't get me wrong--I love lasagna, but a 9x13 pan of it lasts a loooooooooong time for us. The only real planning ahead was to cook the polenta early enough to give it time to cool and to let the sauce simmer, if you're making your own. You could, of course, use jarred sauce to speed it up, but I just prefer to make my own. You could probably slice the polenta thinner to begin with, but I found it a lot easier to slice after it had cooked some than when I was initially slicing up the tube.
I hadn't ever used polenta before. I'm not entirely sure why I had bought the tube of it at Trader Joe's, but I'm sure glad I did. In fact, I went there yesterday and picked up another tube while I was there. I feel the need to embrace polenta now. The husband didn't know what it was, and since he's a southern boy, I told him "Italian grits." :)
My kids ate this pretty reluctantly, but I think that was more due to me giving them snacks too late in the day so they weren't that hungry at dinner time. The husband loved it. In fact he was just sitting here next to me a few minutes ago and commented on how much he loved it. He had some of the leftovers for lunch yesterday and raved about it again after having that. This is definitely something I'll make again!
Tube of polenta:
It was very shiny. In fact it's shininess disturbed me a bit, but I got over it.
Sliced, ready for cooking:
Post-cooking, post-second slicing, ready for layering:
The process begins...