I’ve read about people using polenta instead of noodles in their lasagna. Since my kids adore polenta (my son recently told me that when he is old and has no teeth he plans to subsist on polenta) and I have a host of gluten intolerant friends who can’t eat regular lasagna noodles, I thought I ought to give the whole concept a shot. I discovered a number of things when I made mine. Lots of the online recipes call for prepared polenta – the kind you buy in a tube at the store. Since prepared polenta is costly and full of stuff I can’t pronounce and I’m prone to making everything from scratch (except soap), I made my own. The issue that arises is that store bought, tube polenta has had a chance to set. My polenta, straight out of the pot was creamy. If you make your own polenta (please do) you’ll have a better outcome if you make the whole polenta lasagna recipe a day ahead. Prep the entire recipe, as written below, put it in the fridge overnight and bake it the next day. The polenta inside the lasagna will hold together rather than collapsing in a puddle of tasty, but quite unattractive mush.
The first thing you’ll need to do is make a double batch of Creamy Polenta. Click through to my prior post for the recipe. Since it takes 40 minutes to make polenta and doesn’t take any attention once you’ve whisked it – I prepped the remaining lasagna ingredients while it simmered. I finished the meat and the mushrooms right about the time the polenta finished and then I was ready to put the whole lasagna together.
Turkey Polenta Lasagna (serves 8-10)
- Prepare DOUBLE batch Creamy Polenta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 20-oz sliced crimini mushrooms (or two 10-oz bags TJ’s sliced mushrooms)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon finely ground black or white pepper
- ¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
- 2 lbs ground turkey
- 1 ½ 25-oz jars Marinara Sauce (I used TJ’s Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce – but whatever you have in your cupboard will do)
- 3 cups Quatro Fromaggio Shredded Cheese Blend (Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone – or 3 cups of any combination of the four)
Make the Polenta according to recipe instructions. If you are going to bake the lasagna on the same day as you prepare it, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a large lasagna pan. I used vegetable spray (less fat, simpler).
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the shallots and onions and sauté for ten minutes. Add the crimini mushrooms, the salt and pepper and the white wine (chicken or vegetable broth can be used in place of the wine – my grandmother would have said to drink the wine and use the broth). Sauté the mushrooms until you sweat all of the liquid out of them. This will take at least 15 minutes. If you don’t sweat them enough you’ll end up with really wet lasagna. Be patient and let the mushrooms cook for a good while. It’s worth the wait and practicing being patient is good for your soul – or so someone more patient than I said. Once the mushrooms are done, set them aside. If you’re anywhere near my husband – hide them. He ate a good 1/5th of my patiently sweated mushrooms straight out of the pan before I had a chance to layer them in the lasagna. Bad, bad husband.
In a large skillet (the same one is fine, don’t bother washing it) cook the ground turkey on medium heat, using the back of a spoon to break it up, until all of the turkey is cooked through. There should not be ANY pink bits left (say that three times fast – no pink bits, no pink bits, no pink bits). Once the turkey is cooked, add the pasta sauce. Simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat. Drink the quarter cup of wine you refused to add to the mushrooms.
You are now ready to assemble your lasagna. Take half of the polenta and spread it in the bottom of your lasagna pan. Spread half of the meat sauce on top of the polenta. Next spread ALL of the mushrooms over the meat sauce. Finally sprinkle two of the three cups of cheese over the mushrooms. Spread the second half of the polenta over the cheese. Finish with the remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle the final cup of cheese over the top.
I highly recommend putting the lasagna in the fridge overnight so that the polenta has a chance to set. The next day take the lasagna out of the fridge 30 mins before it needs to go into the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the lasagna for 45-60 mins (cooking times will vary depending on your oven and how cold the lasagna was before it went in). If the top of the lasagna starts to brown before it is heated through place a piece of tinfoil lightly over the top. Take the foil off for the last five minutes so that the cheese on the top melts and browns slightly. Allow the lasagna to sit for 5-10 minutes before you serve it. It will hold together better if you allow it to sit. I know it takes patience to wait. Practice your Zen breathing. You can do it. Say “no pink bits” a few more times. OK. Now you can eat.