Monday, June 6, 2011

polenta lasagna from pantry & freezer

who doesn't love lasagna?! it's endlessly customizable, not inherently unhealthy, and easily made vegetarian. there is nothing wrong with regular lasagna, but this dish is nice because replacing the noodles with polenta discs enables you to avoid dealing with a ricotta layer and thus removes one more step in your path to stuffing your face. it is also conveniently gluten-free, for our digestively afflicted brethren.

also, all of the ingredients except the mozzarella and parmesan can come right out of your freezer and pantry (and actually i think you can freeze those as well if you like) - you can have all the stuff for this on hand and it comes together super-quickly and can be made ahead and baked later - perfect for a weekday/workday dinner!

the leftovers are wonderful for lunch the next day as well.

so yeah, this is dead easy. i use one of those polenta tube thingies, but you could also use homemade polenta, of course. that makes it significantly less simple, however.
i cut the polenta into 12 even slices. next time i think i would cut them thinner - maybe try to get like 15 or 16 slices out of it. that's just personal preference, though.

then i used about 2/3 of a package of part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella. i would also use a little less cheese next time - maybe more like 1/2 a package (the package was 1 pound) and would cut it more thinly. that's also just up to you and how much you enjoy large bites that are primarily cheese.

also you want to grate some parmesan - maybe half a cup or so is probably all you need.

you also need to get the spinach under control. we don't really eat much meat (i will eat free-range chicken occasionally, and i eat some fish, but that's it), so i made this vegetarian. you could definitely use some sausage or something, though, and cook it in the pan before cooking the spinach and layer it with the rest of the stuff. but i think you definitely want spinach, regardless. spinach is delicious!

i used a large bag of frozen spinach - just put it in a big pan over medium heat until it is not frozen anymore. i let it cook a little bit beyond that (for maybe another 3 minutes or so), then let it cool a little and squeeze out as much water as you can (without getting too obsessive about it). i also added a little salt and some pepper flakes to it at that point.
preheat the oven to 375.

now you are ready to layer! i used a smallish square pan and wasn't all that fussed about making sure the polentas fit in there perfectly. after a little sauce on the bottom, i placed some of the polenta discs in, then put some mozzarella over those, then spinach, then a little dusting of parmesan. then you just repeat until you run out of stuff. i ended up with two main layers of polenta and spinach. it all kind of melds into deliciousness anyway, so don't worry too much about making sure everything's super-even. i used most of the parmesan on the top, so it got a nice crust.

i baked it for about 45 minutes, turning it around in the oven after 25 minutes. i don't know if that turning it around thing really does anything, but it makes me feel better.

then you really must let it sit for a good ten minutes or so so it can set up a bit. this gives it more structure when you cut it and ensures that you don't totally burn your tongue off.

every time i make this, i am like, "why don't i make this every day?" and yeah, i might get tired of it, but it is seriously good and easy and nice. you should make it today!

or after the next time you go to the store.

1 polenta tube
1/2-2/3 pound mozzarella
< 1 jar pasta sauce (i used about 3/4 of a jar or a little more)
~1/2 cup (+) grated parmesan
1 bag frozen spinach
it really does taste like more than the sum of its parts. and you can add all kinds of stuff to it - i think sausage, other veggies, different cheese, etc., would all be welcome additions.

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