Southwest Polenta Lasagna

Posted on March 8, 2011

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I’ve been turning this idea over in my head for awhile and on Sunday night I finally got around to trying it.  You never can tell if something will be as delicious in reality as it is in your head, but in this case things worked out really well.  It’s one of those great occasions when the first version is also the final version.  This is a vegetarian lasagna with a Tex-Mex twist.  I know there is quite a bit of cheese in it, but sometimes you just need to splurge.  Try to get organic cheese if you can.  (Organic Valley is an easy to find brand.)  That way you can be sure the cows it came from are as happy as you will be when you sit down to a plate of this lasagna!

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Polenta

Start with the polenta.  It will need to chill for several hours before you can put your lasagna together, so it’s important to plan ahead and complete this step at least a few hours before you plan on making dinner.  This polenta recipe is a modified version of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook recipe.  (A great cookbook by the way!)

  • 1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 3/4 cups water or vegetarian broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 15oz can corn (about 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen kernels)

    Chilled polenta. Ready to slice.

Combine cornmeal and cold water in a bowl.  Bring remaining water or broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Stir cornmeal mixture into boiling liquid.  Continue stirring until mixture begins to boil.

Turn heat down to low and stir gently for 5 minutes.  It should be pretty thick at this point.  Add the corn (drain it first if you are using canned) a little at a time, stirring between each addition.  Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and pour into a lightly greased loaf pan.  (Like the one you would use for banana bread.)  Place in the fridge to chill for at least a few hours.  Overnight is better if you have time.  Make sure you set the pan on a hot pad if your fridge has glass shelves, it will be hot.

Constructing your Lasagna

Once the polenta has set you can start putting together the other components of your dish.  You will need two separate mixing bowls, one for the sauce mixture and one for the cheese.  Don’t worry, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

Sauce Mixture

This stuff smells great even before it goes in the lasagna!

  • 1 28oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 15oz can black beans (about 1 1/2 cups pre-soaked and cooked beans)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried crushed red chilies

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Cheese Mixture

Be sure the cheddar is really mixed in, it may want to clump up.

  • 1 15oz package ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar + 1/2 cup for topping

Mix cheeses until well combined, leaving aside the extra cheddar.

Now turn your oven on to 375 degrees and pull the polenta out of the fridge.  It should feel firm to the touch.  Carefully cut the “polenta loaf” in two and place half on a cutting board or plate.  Cut the polenta into 8 slices about 1/2 inch thick.  You may want to divide the block in half, halve each slice, and then halve them again the get 8 equal pieces.  Just do whatever seems easiest to you.  Layer the slices across the bottom of a lightly greased 13×9 cake pan.  Save any bits that fall off while slicing and use them to fill in the gaps.  Now pour half the sauce mixture on top and spread it out with a spatula.  Next add half the cheese mixture.  Personally I like to add the cheese by spoonfuls and then spread it out.  Repeat with remaining polenta, sauce, and cheese.  Top with last 1/2 cup of cheddar.  Cover your pan with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes to give the top a chance to brown.  Remove from oven, let cool for 5-10 minutes.  This gives the lasagna time to firm up and makes it easier to slice.  Serve.

I cut this pretty square slice after it chilled overnight. The first few slices were a bit squishier... I was too hungry to wait!

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Posted in: Cooking, Recipes