Last Supper

polenta lasagna

Tonight is my last night in beautiful downtown Potomac, so I made a Polenta “lasagna”. Seemed like a good night for it, since it’s been cold and rainy all day. It came out quite well, and may even make its way back to the table (even though leftovers are frowned upon in this house…) Here is my recipe:

Polenta “Lasagna”

1 1/2 cups Polenta
6 cups water
1 tbsp salt
1 cup tomato sauce (recipe follows)
1 cup ragu (recipe follows)
Parmigiano Reggiano (for sprinkling on top)
about 1 tbsp olive oil

  • Boil water and add salt. With a whisk, form a whirlpool and slowly pour polenta into the middle, stirring constantly. As soon as it comes back up to a bubble, turn heat down to a low simmer, and continue to stir occasionally for about 20-25 minutes, till polenta is cooked. (it should be tender to the bite).
  • Meanwhile, butter a square baking dish and preheat oven to 375.
  • When polenta is cooked, spread about 1/3 in the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Spread tomato sauce over polenta.
  • Spread second third of polenta over sauce.
  • Spread ragu over polenta.
  • Top with remaining polenta, parmigiano, and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.

This is a fairly quick dish to make if you have the sauces prepared ahead of time. I almost always have some in the freezer, as these both freeze very well. If you don’t have the ragu, and don’t have time to make it, you can double the amount of tomato sauce and add some crumbled sausage to it. If you’re in a real bind, you can buy a jar of sauce, but it’s just as easy to make it while the polenta cooks (that’s what I did tonight!)

Quick Tomato Sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (these are tomatoes that are grown in the south of Italy, but if you can’t find them, any canned plum tomatoes will do)
salt & pepper to taste plus any dried herbs on hand such as oregano and basil.

  • Heat oil, add onion and garlic, and saute till soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Put tomatoes through a food mill into the pan (including any liquid from the can).
  • Season with salt, pepper and herbs and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Ragu a la Bolognese:

1 onion, very finely diced
1 carrot, very finely diced
1 rib of celery, very finely diced
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste

  • Melt butter in a large sauce pan, add onion, carrot and celery. Season with a bit of salt and saute till soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add ground meat to pan and cook till no longer pink, breaking up with a wooden spoon (do not brown).
  • Add wine and cook till evaporated.
  • Stir in tomato paste until well combined, then add about 1/4 cup of the stock.
  • Cook covered for about 1 1/2 hours over a very low heat (just simmering), adding stock a little at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add cream and heat through (if you are planning to freeze the sauce, omit the cream and add it when you re-heat).

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