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.
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Inspired by The Forest Feast Road Trip by Erin Gleeson
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- 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.
- 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.
- Repeat the process with one more layer of polenta, leeks and sauce. Top with both cheeses.
- Bake for roughly 30 minutes, or a few minutes more if you like things more done. Serve piping hot.
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.
of our favorite interpretations of crowd-pleasing lasagnas
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