Polenta is basically a mixture of cornmeal and salted water and it is a great accompaniment to meat and veggies. For those looking for a low carb side dish or who are wheat sensitive, this is a wonderfully delicious option. The first time I made polenta for Hubby, we brushed it with some olive oil and grilled it at a friend’s suggestion; we loved it! You can also serve it plain, just season and sauté it in a little olive oil and eat it up.
It can be purchased dry and ready to mix (ready in literally minutes), or all ready to go in a tube-form. You can find it in your grocery store in the refrigerated section; it is located in the organic aisle of mine. They even come flavored with herbs and/or veggies – try it, I think you’ll really like it.
I found this picture on the web; this is what it looks like in the tube:
Polenta is very versatile because of its light flavor, and is a great swap for pasta, rice or potatoes and much lower in calories – the entire tube is only 370 calories! This time, I decided to use it as a replacement for lasagna and it was a winner! This is a great make-ahead dish if you are short on time. I also decided to incorporate soy crumbles because I love the texture and wanted something hearty. These crumbles are also a healthier option than ground beef and since I think they are really best made with sauces (they tend to absorb their surroundings), with all of the other bursts of flavor in this dish, I thought they’d be a great addition.
1 jar (26oz) Marinara Sauce (I used Classico Sweet Basil)
1 cup soy crumbles, like Boca or Morningstar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup red pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 small jar (7.5oz) marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tube (18oz) polenta, cut into 18 slices (I used Sundried Tomato Garlic)
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
It’s best to have all of your veggies washed and chopped before you begin.
The following seems like a lot of directions, but basically you are mixing up your sauce and then layering the ingredients like you would a normal pasta lasagna.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray an 8x8 baking dish with nonstick spray and layer about ½ cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom.
In a large skillet over medium/high heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the polenta, browning on both sides. You’ll have to do this in batches as all may not fit. Layer the first 9 slices in the baking dish on the marinara sauce and set the others aside for a bit.
At this point, I put half of the artichoke hearts on top of the first layer of polenta and covered it with spinach leaves. You can throw the artichokes and spinach into the sauce mix if you'd rather...make it your own by doing it your way! Once the polenta has been removed, in the same skillet, sauté the onion and peppers, season with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Once the onions become transparent, add the garlic, mushrooms and zucchini cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the soy crumbles, mix and heat through. Now add the rest of the sauce and mix to heat through. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, mix the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and basil. Now let’s continue to build this baby! Spread a layer of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the polenta/spinach layer then cover with half of the tomato sauce mixture. Continue with another layer of polenta using the other 9 slices, then the rest of the artichoke hearts and spinach.
Spread the rest of the cheese mixture over that, then add the rest of the sauce. Finish with the mozzarella cheese. We only had provolone available so we subbed that for the mozzarella. Either works fine. Cover with foil and place on a baking sheet. When the sauce starts to bubble, it can get messy in there…just trying to save you a little bit of clean up.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes or until cheese is brown and the lasagna is bubbly. Remove from the oven and cool.
At this point, the smell is so tantalizing, it will be very difficult to wait…but with all of the veggies in this dish, it gets saucy. If you don’t care about sauciness (snap!), then let it sit long enough not to burn your tongue when you eat it. But if you DO care and want a more cohesive “piece”, it’s best to let it sit for 15-20 minutes before cutting.
This is what it looks like if you don't wait...still delish, but not in the typical lasagna-y shape...yes, I think that's a word:
If you have any leftovers, lucky you - this darn thing is delicious, now…and later. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8 (about a good size lasagna portion; 4-5” square piece)
Nutrition Info: Calories 290 / Carbs 37g / Fat 8g / Protein 19g / Fiber 7g / Sodium 1220mg