Meatless Monday Polenta Lasagna

We’re having lots of  fun here in the Circle B Kitchen with our Meatless Mondays venture.  We actually eat meatless quite often during the week, but are taking Mondays to showcase some of our favorite meatless recipes and support this great cause.

When eating meatless, I believe we should in no way feel that we are being deprived of something.  It doesn’t have to be bland, stodgy or in any way boring, and polenta lasagna is a perfect case in point.  I’ve been wanting to make this recipe from Michael Chiarello for quite a long time.  We’re big fans of polenta, and we love lasagna (who doesn’t?), so it seemed like a perfect marriage to bring the two together.  Of course, I had to make a few changes to the recipe because his called for Italian sausage, which absolutely would not do on Meatless Monday.  So I took out the sausage and put in a layer of sautéed mushrooms and kale.  You get to make decisions like that when you’re in charge in the kitchen.

And I must say that polenta lasagna has lived up to all of my hopes and expectations.  It’s ridiculously good…..all these yummy layers  baking together until bubbly and delicious.  It makes enough for a 9x13 pan, but I made it in two smaller pans so I could tuck one away in the freezer for future consumption.  Look at me being smart and thinking ahead.

This may look daunting or time consuming to put together, but it really isn’t.  Sure, you have to stir the polenta for a few minutes, but what else would you be doing if you weren’t stirring the polenta?  Paying the bills?  Cleaning the cat litter?  Mowing the lawn?  Stirring polenta is very soothing.  Relax.  Enjoy.

I encourage you to play with this recipe and make it your own.  Add stuff in, take stuff out, mix it up.  Polenta is one of those chameleon ingredients that will just go wherever you want to take it.  We like that.

Polenta Lasagna

Printable Recipe

Recipe Adapted from Michael Chiarello
(Serves 9)

Ingredients:

2 cups marinara sauce
Polenta (recipe follows)
Sautéed veggies (recipe follows)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Ricotta mixture
(recipe follows)

For the Veggies:
3 large kale leaves, chopped (or substitute fresh or frozen spinach)
8 oz sliced mushrooms
2 large cloves garlic
¼ tsp crushed red pepper

For the ricotta mixture:
1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the polenta:

10 cups water
1 tablespoon gray salt
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fine grind polenta
1-1/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Directions


For the kale:
Saute the kale in a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Continue to cook another 5 minutes or so or until the mushrooms are slightly cooked.  Set aside.

For the ricotta mixture:
In a small bowl combine the ricotta, egg yolk, and nutmeg. Set aside.

For the polenta:

In a large saucepan, bring the water, salt, and oil to a boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta and cook over low heat for about 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until the grains are soft. Stir in the parmesan cheese.

To assemble:

Set aside 1/3 cup of the marinara sauce for the top of the lasagne. In a 9 x 13-inch pan, layer:
3 cups of polenta
1/2 the marinara sauce
1/2 the parmesan cheese
1/2 the mozzarella slices
1/2 the kale/mushroom mixture

Repeat. Top with the remaining polenta (it may not cover the top completely). Distribute the ricotta mixture over the top in small dollops. Drizzle the reserved marinara sauce on top. At this point the finished lasagne can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to a day.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the pan on a cookie sheet (in case it bubbles over). Bake about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it is bubbling and hot throughout. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. If cooking 2 smaller pans, bake for 35 to 45 minutes.