Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Polenta Lasagna

I usually make my own polenta from scratch, but occasionally I'll pick up a roll of the premade stuff. Typically I'll just fry it up in a little butter or olive oil, but this time I decided to get a bit more creative. This meal is the perfect compromise between homemade and convenience food, taking shortcut items like jarred marinara sauce and premade polenta and combining them with a pile of fresh vegetables and mushrooms for a lot of flavor in just a short time. That being said, because you're using shortcut items to build a lot of flavor, you better make sure they're good choices. Rao's is frequently regarded as the cream of the crop when it comes to jarred sauces, but it also comes at a pretty steep price. Newman's Own, which I happen to love, comes at a much more budget-friendly price, but use whatever you love (or honestly, just happen to have in the cupboard). I really pumped up the sauce by using not-quite frugal shiitake mushrooms, but this will also be delicious if you can only get your hands on creminis. This lasagna has all the flavor and comfort that a traditional lasagna does, but is a slightly sloppier affair because the polenta rounds don't form the seamless layers that lasagna noodles do. A pile of vegetables carefully disguised as comfort food, this decadent meal will happily feed kids, adults, gluten-intolerants, and vegetarians all from one generous dish without anyone feeling like they're missing out. Spring has finally made her subtle entrance, so seize the opportunity to make a last cold-weather indulgence before warm weather settles in for good.

Polenta Lasagna
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 4 to 6

1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce, divided (or homemade marinara sauce)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
8 ounces shiitake (or cremini) mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
One 10-ounce box of spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (16-ounce) tube of polenta, cut into 18 slices
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Spoon 1/2 cup marinara sauce into an 8-inch square baking dish to cover bottom, and set aside.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, pepper, mushrooms, and garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté 6 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add remaining marinara sauce and spinach; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange 9 polenta slices over marinara in baking dish, and top evenly with half of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese over vegetable mixture; arrange remaining polenta over cheese. Top polenta with the remaining vegetable mixture, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

4. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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