Lasagna by another name.

Ok, so it’s not really by another name. It is still lasagna in all its glory. Except for the teeny tiny insignificant fact that it uses an entirely different ingredient: Polenta. And why not? It’s a simple twist that takes something as ubiquitous as lasagna in a delicious new direction. Yet it somehow still manages to taste like the real thing (or in this case, the veggie version).

Go ahead and add it to your list of shortcut recipes to try. It’s so good. And it is ridiculously easy. Just layer a few ingredients together, pop it in the oven, and you’re done. Perfect for those crazy weeks when you’re working way too many hours, and you’re in desperate need of a home-cooked meal to make it all go away (or at least temporarily fade into the background so you can swoon over every last bite of freshly baked coziness in a pan). And when you’re done, the only thing left to do is come up with a legitimate excuse to make the same dish twice in one week. I, for one, am already super sad that it’s all gone. So if you have any good excuses, please share. Seriously. Or at least let me know how it turns out so I can drool and be jealous.

Polenta Lasagna with Kale

Inspired by blog.fatfreevegan.com (although this version is vegetarian, not vegan)

24 ounces marinara sauce (homemade or if you use jarred, try one with no weird ingredients or added sugar, like Rao’s)
1 24 ounce package pre-cooked polenta, cut into thin rounds (about 1/4 inch thick)
1 head of kale, ribs removed
16 ounces fresh ricotta (get the good stuff if you can, for a recipe with so few ingredients, it makes a big difference)
A sharp, nutty cheese for grating (I picked up some Sapore del Piave from Murray’s Cheese – it’s a cross between a parmigiano and a well-aged gouda, so anything similar should work)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Other possible additions: This is an extremely versatile recipe that you can pretty much cater to your tastes. Try it with spinach instead of kale. Add some extra veggies like carrots or portobello mushrooms. Or change up the cheeses (classic mozzarella or maybe even feta for yet another twist?). Anything goes. It’s a fun and easy way to experiment with something as traditional as lasagna. And it’s a sneaky way to get the pickiest eaters to try things like, um, kale (even my husband didn’t complain about all the green stuff!). Oh, and one final note that I didn’t even realize till I was making it. Polenta is gluten-free. So it’s not just an interesting spin on lasagna, it’s a good option for anyone trying to stay away from pasta or wheat.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash kale and discard the tough ribs in the center. Tear remaining kale into smaller pieces and set aside. Heat oil in large pot and add kale. Saute a few minutes so it starts to wilt down. Add salt and pepper to help release the water as it continues to wilt. Saute another minute. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes more until kale wilts down and turns a deep green color. Taste to adjust seasonings. Set aside.

In a rectangular oven-proof pan, begin layering the lasagna. Start with a layer of sauce, then a layer of the thinly sliced polenta followed by sauteed kale, ricotta, freshly grated Sapore del Piave (or other similar style cheese) and finally another layer of sauce. Repeat until you reach the top of your pan or run out of your ingredients. I had enough for 2 full layers with one final layer of just polenta and cheese on top. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, and bake 15 minutes more until cheese melts and browns slightly on top. Let rest a few minutes. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes before serving, if desired.

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