Since the last few polenta recipes (check them out here & here), people have been asking me what polenta is... well here is another recipe utilizing my favorite non-pasta friend.
Here is a short background on WHAT polenta is. Originally Italian, polenta is basically cornmeal, traditionally made into a grits-like dish with water or stock (read: gloppy maize mess). Despite its baby food texture, it does have the versatility and "blank canvas" quality that rice & couscous have. Now for the good part, the polenta gods have brought us the more updated, modern, and more pleasurable version of polenta which is packed into a log/tube form (I get it at Trader Joes for $1.99-bargain! But I've seen it also at Aron's next to the meat). See picture:
I've used it to make mini pizza rounds (note: gluten free!), topping them with a bit of sauce, a spinach leaf, and cheese; they are perfect grilled atop a salad or sauteed with greens and mushrooms (my previous recipes, linked above). I've also grilled polenta rounds and served them aside steak! Totally works...
My recipe today using polenta is an alternative option to a heavy baked ziti. It's packed with sauteed vegetables, marinara sauce, cheese, & of course- polenta. You won't miss the pasta... I can guarantee it.
Polenta & Vegetable Cheese Bake
-1 tube polenta
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 zucchini, chopped
-1/2-1 cup finely chopped eggplant
-A handful of loosely packed fresh spinach
-Shredded mozzarella cheese
-3 tbsp. Panko breadcrumbs
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees
-Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, a pinch of salt & pepper, and let saute a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
-Add the zucchini & eggplant, and saute for a few minutes more.
-In the meantime, cut the polenta into 12 thin slices. Sometimes I use 2 tubes, but 1 is enough for 2-4 people, it just might not be even layering, but who cares.
-Spray a baking dish with Pam, and spread the bottom with some marinara & then layer the polenta (you don't have to fill the whole thing, just make sure they're spread out)
-Top with some more marinara sauce (I don't use very much as not to drown it in sauce), and then a layer of the fresh spinach, then top with the sauteed vegis (you don't have to cook the spinach first because the hot vegetables + cooking will do the trick)
-Sprinkle just a bit of cheese to hold it together, then layer the rest of the polenta. Top with more shredded cheese (I use Natural & Kosher Mexican or Chefs blend), & then sprinkle the panko & parsley on top.
-Bake 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown & bubbly!
Now you have enough polenta recipes to fill your repertoire, so go try!