I like pasta as much as the next person, but sometimes it's fun to shake things up. Get daring. Go crazy. Live a little.
What does that look like, exactly? Well, it looks a little something like this:
Yep. I live a very glamorous life.
I actually will uphold that sliced polenta in place of lasagna noodles really is kind of exciting. For one, polenta is just straight-up delicious. And when used in place of lasagna noodles, firm sliced polenta adds flavor, texture and heft.
For this Greek Polenta Lasagna, I layered basic polenta with mozzarella, marinara sauce and the filling de résistance: ricotta mixed with feta, roasted red peppers, spinach, kalamata olives and more. Basically, things just got all Greek up in here.
You can make this recipe as homemade or as store-bought as you like. For convenience, you can buy tubes of polenta off the store shelf, though you will probably find you get better flavor and an easier-to-work-with shape if you make it yourself (here's more about making your own polenta if you decide to go that route). You can roast your own red peppers or buy jarred. Buy frozen spinach or blanch fresh. Use your own homemade tomato sauce or buy your favorite brand at the store. Grab a good pre-shredded mozzarella or grate it yourself. It's all good!
For the polenta:
- 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups polenta corn grits
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons olive oil divided
For the lasagna:
- 1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim both work)
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese divided
- 1 egg
- 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess water
- 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
- ¾ cup halved pitted kalamata olives divided
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 25-ounce jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce (about 4 cups)
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded (about 2 cups)
Cook the polenta:
- Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt to a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring constantly to help prevent lumping. Cook, stirring frequently with a long-handled spoon to prevent sticking, until very thick, 25-30 minutes. (The polenta may bubble and spurt while cooking; in addition to using the long-handled spoon, I also partially cover my polenta while it cooks.) Once the polenta is thick, stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Grease a standard size, 4x8-inch loaf pan with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Spoon the warm polenta into the loaf pan, spreading evenly. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Invert the pan onto a cutting board; the polenta should slide right out in a solid block. Cut lengthwise into 8 slices. Set aside.
Mix the ricotta filling:
- In a medium bowl, use a fork to combine the ricotta, ¾ cup feta, egg, spinach, roasted red peppers, ½ cup olives, oregano, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Assemble the lasagna:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Have an 8x12-inch pan ready. For easy assembly, have all components (polenta, ricotta mixture, sauce and mozzarella) arranged side-by-side on the kitchen counter or table.
- Spread a little sauce on the bottom of the pan. Lay four slices of polenta in a single layer over the sauce. Add half the ricotta in dollops, then spread gently to distribute evenly. Add half of the remaining sauce, then half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers -- add the remaining polenta, then the ricotta, then the sauce, then the cheese. Top evenly with ¼ cup crumbled feta and ¼ cup kalamata olives.
- Bake until hot throughout and the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown in spots, 40-50 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.