Polenta — Huh?by caroline
Curious about those guys above? Yeah, I was too. The truth is, I’ve never had polenta. I know — totally shocking coming from someone who loves food and trying new recipes. Every time I see it in the store, I think, “I really need to try that.” And then … I don’t. But during our most recent trip to the grocery store I figured it was as good a time as ever to give ol’ polenta a shot and I bought it.
Of course, figuring out what I wanted to do with it was a completely different story.
For starters, I looked up the definition of polenta (I bought it and was still unsure about exactly what it is). It turns out polenta is simple ground yellow or white cornmeal, and the one I purchased was naturally gluten-free (which may be the case for all of them … I’m not sure). So, I tossed around a few options.
Bake it with veggies?
Fry it in a pan, and make it nice and crispy?
Mash it and serve it … somehow … ?
But then, I realized what a nice substitute polenta would make for a noodle. And all of a sudden I was down the path of Italian dishes, arriving at one of my favorites: Lasagna. I did, however, want this one to be different. While I wasn’t aiming to make it a dairy-free dish (I still used regular cheese), I did want to nix the typical ricotta that is used in lasagna recipes and swap it for something a little more interesting (and healthy).
I found this recipe for Creamy Basil Tofu Ricotta and decided it fit the bill. Whip up a batch of it before embarking down the polenta-lasagna-making path. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare and it is so very tasty. I made two small alterations and arrived at this:
Creamy Basil and Oregano Tofu Ricotta (gluten-free + vegan)
- 1 (14 ounce) block gluten-free firm tofu, drained and cubed
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- squeeze fresh lemon juice
- 1 whole garlic clove
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
- drizzle olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
1. Combine tofu, basil, sugar, lemon juice, garlic clove and oregano in a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Add a drizzle olive oil and process until creamy.
3. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Once your done making that, it’s time for the Gluten-Free + Vegetarian Polenta Lasagna.
Polenta Lasagna (gluten-free and vegetarian)
- 2 18-ounce sleeves of original/plain gluten-free polenta
- 2 medium portabella mushroom caps, sliced
- 1/2 of a white onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 3 1/2 cups (approximately) gluten-free pasta sauce
- 2 cups Creamy Basil and Oregano Tofu Ricotta
- 1/2 cup black olives, chopped
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
- olive oil (for sautéing vegetables)
NOTES: I used Food Merchants Organic Polenta.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium pan, heat about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, white onion and minced garlic, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. While vegetables are cooking, slice polenta into 1/4-inch – 1/2 inch slices. Set polenta aside.
Add spinach to the mushroom, onion and garlic mix, sautéing for additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce (about 1/2 cup) in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place one layer of polenta on top of sauce. Spread about 1 cup of the Creamy Basil and Oregano Tofu Ricotta mixture on top of polenta. Then, layer 1/2 of the spinach and mushroom mixture on top of the ricotta, followed by sprinkling 1/4 cup of the chopped black olives on top. Cover olives with a 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella. Then, repeat the layering process, starting with a larger portion of sauce (about 1-1/2 cups) than bottom layer and ending with mozzarella. Top mozzarella with remaining 1-1/2 cups sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.
Fresh out of the oven:
Having never tried polenta before, I wasn’t really sure how this recipe was going to turn out, but I can honestly and truly say: It’s a knockout. The fresh ingredients and rich flavor make this dish a total win in my book and I will definitely be making it again. After one slice, I went back for seconds and Dan had three plates (and packed some for lunch today).
Hey, polenta? We can be best friends now.