Last night I had one of those Iron Chef nights I previously mentioned, when I had to scour our fridge and pantry for ingredients to create a meal. Good thing we recently went food shopping so I had a decent amount of items to choose from. I discovered a roll of polenta, (a versatile starch made using ground yellow or white cornmeal), a small container of fat-free ricotta cheese, and a can of crushed tomatoes. I immediately thought of making a take on lasagna. I pulled a bag of broccoli florets out of the freezer to add another layer of color and nutrients, and gave my best Chairman impression as I yelled, ‘Allez Cuisine!’ (Kidding…I thought it silently to myself.)
The pan-fried polenta held up nicely to the garlicky, sweet, spicy tomato sauce, and the creamy ricotta cheese was an excellent match for the layers of steamed broccoli, which enhanced its flavor in the oven. The result? I may not be the next Iron Chef, but I certainly produced a hearty and satisfying dinner.
1 roll of plain polenta
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
About 5 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 bag broccoli florets, steamed
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (adjust per your liking)
4 Tablespoons jarred minced garlic (or 8 fresh cloves)
Non-stick cooking spray
Salt and pepper
1 pinch of sugar
Preheat oven to 350 and coat 9×9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Slice polenta into ½ inch rounds and season with salt and pepper.
Pour olive oil into a pan, enough to coat the bottom, (about twice around) and add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.
Flip to other side and do the same.
Transfer polenta onto a paper towel coated plate to soak up access oil. Continue frying the rest of the slices.
Everyone has their own version of homemade tomato sauce. Although this is my first time recording exact measurements, this is basically how I’ve taught myself to make my own:
In a large skillet, pour about three turns of olive oil into a pan, and add 3 tablespoons of minced garlic. (I use fresh when I have it in the house.) Cook over medium-high heat.
Once it browns, add the entire can of crushed tomatoes.
Once tomatoes come to a boil, add dried oregano, dried basil and garlic powder. Crush the herbs between your fingers when adding to the pan to freshen them up. Add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and sugar and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Mix 1 cup ricotta with 6 Tablespoons of grated parmesan.
Cover bottom of baking dish with about 1 cup of sauce.
Add a layer of polenta.
Top each polenta round with the cheese mixture, leaving half for the next layer.
Top with 2 cups of broccoli.
Repeat process adding another cup of sauce,
the remaining polenta,
the rest of the cheese mixture,
the remaining broccoli,
and top with the rest of the tomato sauce.
Smooth it with a spatula for an even coat.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
Serve with sprinkled parmesan, if desired.
Feel free to make it your own, adding crumbled beef to amp up the protein content, and any other vegetables you like…or have in the house. Enjoy!