Polenta Lasagna

polenta lasagna.JPGIf you have been following my posts this year, you know that on the 13th, we had rabbit with polenta.  Of course, there was leftover polenta, because I always make too much on purpose.  There are so many great things to do with the leftovers.  One thing I love to do is to cool it in flat strips, and then fry it in butter till crispy on the outside.  It will still be creamy on the inside.  Great for an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres.  I did save a little bit of the polenta from the rabbit, and had it for lunch the next day with some of the leftover lentils from the previous salmon dinner.

polenta with lentils

Polenta will cool and solidify pretty quickly, so right after you have plated what you will eat, you want to spread the remaining polenta out on a sheet tray into one layer that’s about 1/2″ thick.  Then you can cut it into sheets that are the size of the pan you will use, and refrigerate or freeze it for later use.  I froze mine in a pie tin, so I had sort of odd shaped pieces, but it worked anyway… and 2 weeks later defrosted it for the “lasagna”.  There was already frozen Ragu and tomato sauce from my last visit here in November, so all I had to do was defrost everything, assemble it, and stick it in the oven for a half hour.  I wish all meals were so easy!  

Here are the recipes for all 3 parts, and for the final dish.  All can be done on the same day of course (I would start with the polenta and cool it while doing the rest), but you will need several hours.  If you don’t have the Ragu on hand, and you don’t have all day, you can always double the amount of the tomato sauce and add some crumbled sausage to half of it for a quick meat sauce – that would still be very tasty!

Polenta lasagna

3 sheets of cooled polenta, cut to fit the size of your pan (recipe follows)
2 cups tomato sauce (recipe follows)
2 cups ragu (recipe follows)
Parmigiano Reggiano (for sprinkling on top)
2 tbsp butter, cut up into small pieces

  • Butter a rectangular or square baking dish and preheat oven to 375.
  • Spread about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  • Lay down first layer of polenta.
  • Spread tomato sauce over polenta.
  • Put second layer of polenta over sauce.
  • Spread ragu over polenta.
  • Top with remaining polenta, parmigiano, and dot with butter.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.

Creamy Herb Polenta

1 ½ cups polenta
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup heavy cream
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bunch sage
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

  • Bring stock to a boil in a large pot, then add salt.  Make a whirlpool in center with a whisk and slowly pour polenta into center.  Turn heat down to a low simmer and cook, stirring almost constantly, for about 30 minutes until tender to the bite.
  • While polenta cooks, gently heat cream and herbs in a small pot.
  • When polenta is done, strain herbs out of cream and stir cream into polenta.  Stir in butter and cheese.  Taste and add salt if necessary.

Quick Tomato Sauce:

1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps olive oil
2 – 28 oz. cans 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 Italian 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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