Polenta lasagna is comfort food for when you're burned out on pasta

Oozing with cheese, skillet polenta lasagna is a one-pan miracle

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published October 20, 2022 1:29PM (EDT)

Polenta Lasagna (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Polenta Lasagna (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

In "Quick & Dirty," Salon Food's Mary Elizabeth Williams serves up simplified recipes and shortcuts for exhausted cooks just like you — because quick and dirty should still be delicious.

It doesn't have to be because you're gluten-free, or you're doing keto or paleo or for any other health-based reason. Sometimes — and I realize this might sound crazy — you just get tired of pasta.

I love my carbs as much as the next person — even if that next person's last name is De Cecco. Yet there are certain burned-out evenings when I just can't face the thought of boiling another noodle. Enter polenta.

In her latest "Forest Feast" edition, "Road Trip," author Erin Gleeson offers plenty of lush, California-inspired vegetarian fare that's designed to fit comfortably around long, full days. And after spending several recent weeks abroad confined to stovetop dinners, all I could think about lately was getting home to my own oven and baking her quick, cheesy lasagna.

Polenta in the tube is one of my favorite modern inventions. Pan-fried and topped with a generous grind of pepper and a shower of cheese, it's the side dish of champions. Quick-cooking polenta — which is a stand-in for lasagna noodles — and jarred sauce make Gleeson's interpretation of the hearty project recipe into a mostly hands-off dinner.

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Gleeson bakes her polenta lasagna in a pan, but I take my laziness to the next level with a smaller skillet version that goes straight from the stovetop to the oven. She also makes hers with chard, but that's a tough sell in my family, so I've omitted it. If your crew is more leafy green-friendly, by all means cook up some along with the leeks. I also have a heavy hand with cheese; you may decide as I did to throw a little more on just for good measure.

* * *

Inspired by The Forest Feast Road Trip by Erin Gleeson

Polenta Lasagna
 4 servings
Prep Time
 10 minutes
Cook Time
 35-40 minutes


  • 2 leeks, sliced into rounds and well rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 24 ounces jarred marinara sauce
  • 1 tube polenta
  • 1 cup (or more!) shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan



  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a cast-iron skillet over medium flame, heat the oil. Cook the garlic and leeks to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then remove from the pan.
  3. Slice the polenta tubes in half lengthwise, then into even half circles. Cover the bottom of the skillet with polenta slices. Spoon half the leek mixture on top. Cover with half the sauce.
  4. Repeat the process with one more layer of polenta, leeks and sauce. Top with both cheeses.
  5. Bake for roughly 30 minutes, or a few minutes more if you like things more done. Serve piping hot.

Cook's Notes

As someone who usually prefers her meals entirely composed of the crunchy bits, I'll advise that this is a dish served best with a shatteringly crisp baguette for balance.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cast Iron Comfort Food Erin Gleeson Food Lasagna Polenta Quick & Dirty Recipe Vegetarian