Next time you visit a grocery store and see those little tubes of pre-cooked polenta for sale, don't buy one. Polenta is so easy to make at home, and SO much less expensive. In 30-45 minutes, with minimal work, you can have enough delicious and fluffy polenta to make lasagna in your dutch oven... so why wouldn't you? The lasagna I made yielded 4-5 (large) adult servings. We enjoyed it for dinner and then lunch the next day. Here is what you do:
Polenta Lasagna, Dutch Oven style
1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 lightly oiled cookie sheet (or similar sized piece of aluminum foil)
your favorite lasagna ingredients (I've included what I used below)
In a medium to large cook pot, bring four cups of water and a teaspoon of salt to a boil, then slowly add one cup of polenta while whisking constantly. Don't stop whisking while adding the polenta, or you will get clumps. After adding all polenta, turn heat to low and whisk for ~five minutes. Cover. Every six minutes or so, uncover and stir well (switch from whisk to wooden spoon), making sure to scrape bottom and sides thoroughly.
You can let your polenta simmer along while you prepare the rest of your lasagna ingredients, making sure to stop and stir as described. When your polenta begins to "stack up/hold shape" when you scrape it away from the sides, it is ready.
Pour/scrape your polenta out onto the cookie sheet. You will need to press it out evenly and flat to fill the cookie sheet. TAKE NOTE! The polenta is very hot. I've tried several different suggested ways of smoothing polenta, but I think the best way is to wet your (clean) hands thoroughly with cold water, and work rapidly to hand press it out. When your hands get too warm or begin to stick, re-wet them and keep working. The polenta stiffens quickly, so you need to work fast, but I've found that the water on your hands buys you a little time and doesn't affect the final product.
While the polenta cools (room temperature is fine, you don't need a refrigerator), prepare your favorite lasagna ingredients. For our dinner, I used:
3 cloves garlic + 1/2 onion sliced and sauteed in olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar
1 zucchini chopped and lightly sauteed (add to pan once onions are lightly browned)
1 jar marinara pasta sauce (add to pan last and heat until warm)
1 bunch spinach stemmed and cleaned (set aside for layering)
grated mozzarella cheese (set aside for layering)
Next, the Polenta Noodles! So good! When your polenta is adequately cooled you will be able to easily lift a corner up from the pan.
Use a knife to cut wide lasagna "noodles," or whatever shape you desire. You will treat the polenta just as you would lasagna noodles while layering up your ingredients.
Place a nice smear of your sauce in the bottom of the dutch oven. Add layer of polenta noodles, then another layer of sauce. Cover sauce with spinach leaves and sprinkle cheese over leaves. Repeat, beginning with polenta. Over your last layer of polenta, layer sauce and cheese only.
When your layering is complete, pour a shy 1/2 cup water between the edges of your lasagna and the edge of the dutch oven. This will help simmer and avoid burning on the bottom. Place dutch oven over low-medium heat and cook until sauce is bubbly and spinach leaves have just wilted.
OR! Use your own favorite lasagna ingredients. The basic technique will be the same.
Let me know what you think about this, or if you tried something similar before! Enjoy!