Sara Novak Photo
Sara Novak

Polenta is the Italian answer to grits. And as a Southerner, I've never seen a grit that I didn't like. Polenta is a great way to make vegetarian dishes upscale with a few good ingredients. I first became a fan of the ingredient last year when I made this mushroom ragout with creamy polenta. This is a lighter, healthier lasagna; it's not loaded with cream sauces and pasta. It's a little time consuming to make, so pour yourself a glass of biodynamic wine and take your time with this one.

This is a great recipe to feed a crowd. Just add a nice seasonal salad and maybe a freshly baked baguette and you're good to go. It's really hearty so it will please both the meat eaters and the vegetarians at Easter brunch. I got this recipe from Vegetarian Times. I left out the mushrooms because I couldn't find them locally but they would be a good touch if you have them.

INGREDIENTS

4 cups water
1 1/4 cups polenta or cornmeal
1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large eggplant
2 bell peppers
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh oregano
1/2 cup cooked beans
4 oz grated mozzarella
3 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

PREPARATION:

Method

  1. Begin by making the polenta. In a large pot bring a pot of water to boil. Slowly add in the polenta, combining with a whisk. Cook until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Add rosemary, salt, and pepper.
  2. Pour polenta into two 8 x 8 inch baking pans until 3/4-inch thick. (You will need two layers of polenta.) Smooth and level surface with spoon. Let cool, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Roast the eggplant whole by punching some holes in it and roasting for 45 minutes. Cut the eggplant in half long ways and scoop out the flesh. Turn up to 450 degrees.
  5. Add in the bell peppers and roast until the skin is charred. Let cool, add to a paper bag and remove the skin by moving the peppers around in the bag. Remove seeds and chop.
  6. Unmold polenta, taking care not to break. Reserve single piece of polenta for top layer.
  7. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.
  8. Add onions to a skillet along with garlic and 1/4 cup water. Cook over medium heat until the water evaporates.
  9. In a large bowl add in onion combination, eggplant, pepper, oregano, beans, and mozzarella cheese. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in bottom of lasagna pan. Top with layer of polenta, add layer of filling, spreading it evenly, then another layer of polenta. Add remaining marinara sauce. Top with Parmesan-style cheese. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Assemble just like you would a normal lasagna.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, or until thoroughly heated through. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

    Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times.

This recipe appears in: Vegetarian

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