Recipe of the Week – Polenta Lasagna

By on January 28, 2019

When living a gluten-free lifestyle, whether by choice or necessity, there are many foods that you assume you may never be able to eat again. While restaurants have become more knowledgeable about gluten-free options over the last five years, it is still common to be offered a salad or a burger with no bun as the only option on a “gluten-friendly” menu. Most grocery stores have progressively stocked a variety of manufacturers but the choices are limited. You have to go to a specialty or high-end stores if you want choices.

Some foods are a real rarity in the gluten-free marketplace. Lasagne noodles are one of them. Gluten-free noodles range from “you can’t tell the difference” to “cardboard or sticks” and aside from penne, spaghetti, and elbows, there are virtually no other pasta shapes readily available so we adapt and improvise.

This polenta lasagne came out of one such improvisation. If you don’t know polenta, it is the Italian version of ground cornmeal, fancy grits, if you will. You can find it in several different spots in the store. There is often a fancy imported variety in the Italian aisle that runs about $10 a pound, but if you look in the aisle with breakfast grains like oatmeal you can find both grits and polenta for under $4 a pound. There two different types, a fine white corn or hominy meal often marketed as grits and coarser yellow corn meal which is more commonly marketed as polenta. There is a slight difference in flavor but they are basically interchangeable (as long as you’re not cooking for food snobs). When you chill cooked polenta (or grits) it turns into a solid cake-like mass that can be cut into slices and used in a variety of ways (try it on the grill with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan). We love Bob’s Red Mill brand.

For the lasagna, cook the grits at least an hour before you plan to assemble the lasagna but the night before is even better. In a saucepan, heat two and a half cups of half and half and two and a half cups of chicken broth to a simmer. Turn down the heat and add half a teaspoon of salt and slowly whisk in one and a quarter cups of polenta. The polenta is likely to lump together, so make sure that the liquid is moving when you add it and keep stirring with the whisk until it is fully incorporated. Cook on low for about fifteen minutes until the liquid is fully absorbed and the polenta is smooth and creamy. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom and scorching. Remove from the heat, add half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, and stir well to incorporate. Let the polenta cool slightly while you prepare the pan.

Cut a piece of parchment paper about four inches longer than your 9×9 brownie pan. Fold the edges over so the paper will lay in the bottom of the pan and crease the corners to make a liner. Pour the still hot polenta into the pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly. Cover with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface of the polenta, otherwise, it will get a rubbery skin on the top, and place in the refrigerator to cool for at least one hour, but overnight is better.

In a sauté pan, brown one pound of Italian sausage with the casings removed. While it is cooking remove the polenta from the pan. Using a long serrated knife, cut the polenta in half, making what are essentially two large lasagna noodles.

In the same pan the polenta cooled in, pour about half a cup of marinara and place one piece of polenta on top.

Add the rest of the marinara sauce to the sausage. Now layer just as you would a traditional lasagna. I don’t use a layer of ricotta because the polenta is already pretty creamy once reheated. Pour half of the meat mixture over polenta and top with a half cup of mozzarella cheese. Top with the second slice of polenta, the rest of the meat mixture and the remaining cup and a half of cheese.

Place the pan on a foil lined cookie sheet because it will bubble over, and place in a 350º oven for one hour. Cut into nine servings and serve with a healthy salad and some Chianti.

Polenta Lasagna

  • 2 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/4 cup polenta
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce (or your favorite spaghetti sauce)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring broth and half and half to a simmer. Add salt and whisk in polenta. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently to keep from sticking or scorching. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese.

Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper and spread polenta all the way into the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and cool overnight or at least one hour in the refrigerator.

Once cooled and very firm, slice polenta into two sheets with a long serrated knife.

Remove casings from sausage and brown in a sauté pan. Pour 1/2 cup of marinara sauce into the same pan the polenta cooled in and add the remaining sauce to the sausage. In the pan, layer one slice of polenta, half the sausage mixture, and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Top with the second slice of polenta, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Place the pan on a lined cookie sheet and bake at 350º for one hour. Makes 9 servings.



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