Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Polenta Lasagna

Will wanted me to have a dinner party last weekend and I just wasn't up for it. But it was a good idea, so early in the week I started thinking about what I could pull together for a Friday night. This polenta lasagna from Fine Cooking's Make Ahead Holidays 2010 issue was just the thing. I made the polenta and the sauce on Thursday evening, chilled overnight, assembled in the morning, and then only had to put it in the oven and wait for the guests. I served it with a simple green salad and tiramisu. It's loaded with vegetables and protein so it's really a complete meal without a lot of fuss, and all the mess can be cleaned up the day before!

Polenta Lasagna
serves 8

3 cups water
2 cups coarse-ground polenta
3 cups cold milk
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup parmigiano
2  tablespoons unsalted butter

Over high heat, bring water to a boil. Combine the polenta, milk, and salt and stir until smooth. Slowly add mixture to boiling water, strring constantly. Cook until polenta begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. REduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the polenta begins to bubble and pop, about 5 minutes more. REduce heat to low, add cheese and butter, and stir until polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes. Pour into a 9x13 dish and chill until firm.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 pound mushrooms, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (easy to leave out entirely to make vegetarian)
2 28 oz cans crushed and/or diced tomatoes (I used one of each)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh pasley
6 ounces shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup grated parmigianoIn large fryin gpan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pepper, onion, and garlic and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and irumble in the sausage, cook until the sausage is no longer pink. Add the zucchini and tomatoes and cook until thick and saucy, about 45 minutes. Deglaze with wine and stir in fresh herbs. Chill overnight.

Assemble lasagne by inverting polenta from baking dish. Cut crosswise into two piece, and then split each layer horizontally. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan, then top with polenta. Cover with thick layer of sauce and remaining polenta. Top with another thick layer of sauce, and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake at 350 for about 50-55 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

This was so good, we kept eating it before remembering to photograph it!
We finally remembered on day three, with one single slice left.

Side salad
I chose arugula for this salad because its spiciness would contract with the rich, sweet flavors of the lasagna, and pine nuts and golden raisins for other color and texture (crunchy and chewy) contrasts to the soft, creamy lasagna.

6 ounces arugula
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup cannellini beans
juice from 1/2 large lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground mustard
cracked pepper
dash salt (depending on how salty the beans are)

Whisk together lemon, mustard, oil, salt, and pepper. Toss together remaining ingredients and drizzle with dressing.

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