I love pasta of every description, but if I had to choose my favorite pasta dish, it would be lasagna. There is just something special about taking a bubbling hot casserole dish from the oven, then cutting through the layers with creamy cheese oozing out of the sides. A lasagna is also a great option when entertaining as you can make it the day before you want to serve it, leaving time for other activities. When making lasagna, your options are truly endless depending on the ingredients you choose. I personally enjoy using seasonal ingredients, layering them between silky sheets of pasta, sauce, and cheese.
If I am planning to make lasagna, I have to schedule enough time to make my own fresh pasta sheets because I have a strong distaste for store bought dried lasagna noodles. One other option to making pasta from scratch is to use polenta in its place. Once cooked, polenta can be cut into slices and layered with sauce and cheese just as you would with pasta. Polenta al Forno or polenta “lasagna” is a relatively hearty dish, especially when made with a hearty meat ragu sauce. For this particular recipe, I made a sausage ragu and then layered the polenta slices with the sauce, grated mozzarella, and pecorino cheese.
Deborah Mele 2017
- 3 Cups Quick Cooking Polenta
- 2 Quarts Water
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Chopped Onions
- 1 Stalk Of Celery, Finely Chopped
- 1 Carrot, Finely Chopped
- 4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 5 Italian Sausages, Meat Removed From Casings
- 2 (28 Ounce) Cans Crushed Tomatoes
- 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Basil
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 8 Ounces Grated Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 Cup Grated Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese
- To prepare the polenta, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.
- Add the salt and oil, and slowly whisk in the cornmeal.
- Cook for 5 to 6 minutes over medium heat, whisking continuously to prevent lumps.
- Lightly oil a baking sheet and pour the polenta on top.
- Use a spoon to spread the polenta evenly and allow to cool completely.
- While the polenta is cooling, prepare the sauce.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onion, celery, and carrot, and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown.
- Add the garlic and sausage meat and continue to cook until the sausage meat is no longer pink, breaking the meat up into small pieces as it cooks.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes until thickened.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch oven-proof pan with a thin layer of sauce.
- Cut the polenta into strips, and cover the sauce with a layer of polenta.
- Cover the polenta with more sauce, some mozzarella and pecorino cheese.
- Repeat until all of the ingredients have been used, ending with a layer of cheese on top.
- Bake the casserole for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly hot.
- Remove from the oven and let the casserole rest 10 minutes before cutting.