Polenta Lasagna with Mushrooms and Spinach with Walnut Basil Pesto

  • by Sally Stewart
I was craving something hearty and satisfying but also vegetarian, so I was thinking of a tasty combination of veggies in a comforting and rich dish and found this idea online. We made this for Sunday dinner with Steven’s dad and Suze one evening and it was a huge hit! 

It takes a bit of time to make, as do most of my recipes, but everything can be made ahead for an easy and delicious dinner experience. We paired with one of our favorite expressions of Nerello Mascalese from Mount Etna in Sicily, and it couldn’t have been a better pairing.

Ingredients:

  • 2 x 18-ounce store-bought polenta, or 4 cups homemade polenta (recipe below)
  • 6 ounces of Ricotta
  • 1.5 cups grated mozzarella cheese 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Spinach mushroom filling
  • 1.5 cups roasted red pepper and tomato sauce
  • Generous pinch salt, pepper and nutmeg

Spinach Mushroom Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one onion, medium dice
  • 4–6 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
  • 10–16 ounces mushrooms, sliced (maiitake, crimini, baby, bella)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or chopped fresh rosemary, oregano and thyme.
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, chopped (or 8 ounces frozen)

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (or use 2 cups store-bought marinara or whatever)

  • 1 roasted red pepper (from a jar for convenience)
  • 1 x 14 ounce can roasted diced tomatoes and their juices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or chopped fresh herbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper

Walnut Pesto:

  • 1 cup packed basil (Italian parsley or arugula)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted walnuts*

Homemade Firm Polenta  (minimum 4 hours of refrigeration time)

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • olive oil for coating sheet pan
  • parchment paper

Instructions:

Homemade Polenta: Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan; pour polenta slowly into boiling water, whisking constantly until all polenta is stirred in and there are no lumps Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until polenta starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes. When polenta is too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon. Since we’re making firm polenta, cook until texture is thickened.

Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Spread out polenta into prepared pan(s) about 3/4 inch thick. Let chill in the fridge for a minimum 4 hours. Make it the night before or in the morning you plan to make the lasagna.

Preheat oven to 400F 

Mushroom Spinach filling: In a large skillet on medium high heat, sauté the mushrooms in oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove mushrooms and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, stirring until tender, about 10 minutes, add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted; cook until all excess moisture is evaporated. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce:  Add the diced tomatoes (and juices) to the blender and add the drained and rinsed roasted pepper. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and Italian herbs. Blend until creamy and smooth.

Prepare Polenta: If using store-bought, slice the polenta into 1/2 inch slices. 

Assemble: Brush a 9×13 inch baking dish with olive oil. Ladle about 1/2 cup sauce on the bottom, coating bottom evenly. Add the first layer of polenta. Top with ALL the filling in one single layer and spread it out evenly. Dollop with spoonfuls of ricotta and season layer with salt, pepper and nutmeg then add a layer of shredded mozzarella. Pour 1/2 cup sauce lightly over the cheese. Then top with final layer of polenta. Pour sauce over top and evenly coat the polenta. Reserve extra sauce for finishing the dish, if desired. Top with as much mozzarella as your heart desires. Cover with foil or parchment and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 15-20 more minutes until bubbling and hot throughout. 



Walnut Pesto:
Pulse everything but the walnuts until a food processor until well combined. Add the toasted walnuts and pulse until they’re coarsely chopped but to keep a chunky texture.

Plate Polenta on a warm dish, drizzle with walnut pesto and serve with a simple green salad and some toasted crunchy bread. 

 

The Wine Pairing:

Passopisciaro Passorosso Etna Rosso 2017 $40

This is one of our favorite producers of Etna Rosso, and this wine is a fantastic pairing with this tasty lasagna. The wine has flavors of pomegranate, black cherry, dried savory herbs and the unmistakable smokey volcanic minerality only found on Etna. The smoky red pepper tomato sauce, bright basil pesto and savory mushrooms pair beautifully with the complimentary flavors and aromas in the wine. Delicious! 🍷🌋

 

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