Sausage, Mushroom & Polenta “Lasagna”

I love the challenge and adventure of trying a new recipe, so it’s not too often I come back to a recipe more than once. It’s really got to be good. Well folks — this is one of them recipes. Actually, I think I’ve made it at least six times (!).

Courtesy of Rachael Ray: Sausage, Mushroom and Polenta Lasagna. Rachael starts with a “master” recipe for this one, and then offers a few riffs on it for variety. I’ve tried all the riffs, and I’m a big fan of the olive one and the pesto one. But they’re all DELICIOUS.

If you’ve never used prepared polenta before (I hadn’t) — it’s a revelation. Super easy and tasty. This dish is hearty but not too heavy, since it uses portobello mushroom instead of lots of meat, and it has great flavors from the lemon zest in the ricotta, spice from the red pepper flake and fresh rosemary.

I made it with some roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and lemon juice. If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts…it’s time to get over that. Come on — there’s bacon involved. And when you roast them, they are unbelievably nutty and flavorful. I crisped up the bacon (remove it from the pan), then threw the sprouts in to brown them up, then roasted them in the same oven with the “lasagna” for 20 minutes. Squeeze some lemon juice over them, crumble in the bacon, salt and pepper. Voila.

TW’s tips:

  • I find that polenta tends to come in inconvenient 16-oz packages. I just buy two and use both.
  • Polenta can be hard to find at the grocery store. I have strode cursing through the aisles more than once. It’s usually buried on the bottom shelf in the pasta aisle or with the sundried tomatoes or other Italian “miscellaneous” items. It’s literally a tube of polenta.
  • When Rachael says “don’t make yourself crazy” spreading the cheese over the polenta — listen.
  • It takes longer than 15-18 minutes to heat this through. I like my food hot. I’d say 30 at least, but her trick for testing the knife after you stick it through the middle works well.
  • The foil over the top sticks to the mozzarella as it melts (duh). Try to leave some space in there so it’s not a mess when you take off the foil.
  • This is amazing for leftovers. I’m known for making a double batch.

You’re going to love it!

Sausage, Mushroom & Polenta “Lasagna”

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 portobello mushroom, stem removed
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tube (24 ounces) prepared polenta, plain or flavored, cut into 21 disks about 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the 2 tablespoons of EVOO (twice around the pan) and the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. While the sausage is starting to brown, cut the portobello mushroom in half and then thinly slice and add to the sausage. Chop and add to the pan as you go the onions, garlic and rosemary. Season the sausage and mushrooms with the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Once everything is in the pan, the sausage is lightly browned, and the mushrooms and onions have wilted, add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Continue to cook over high heat until the liquids have evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.

While the sausage and mushrooms are cooking down in the liquid, in a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with the egg, lemon zest, Parmigiano, and the breadcrumbs.

Brush an 8-inch spring form pan or an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with a little EVOO and place 7 disks of the polenta on the bottom of the dish. If they overlap a little that’s fine; it will vary depending on what kind of dish you are using. Divide the sausage and mushroom mixture into 3 even portions. Do the same with ricotta mixture.

Using the back of a spoon, spread one third of the ricotta mixture on top of the polenta. Don’t make yourself crazy doing this — just mush it out over the polenta. Top the ricotta with a third of the sausage and mushrooms. Repeat the layers two more times, starting with the polenta and finishing with a sausage and mushroom layer. Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, transfer to the oven, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. To make sure it is cooked through, insert a knife into the center of the dish, wait a few seconds, and then remove it. Touch the knife with your fingertips and if it is hot, the lasagna is done. Remove from the spring form (or cut loose from the baking dish) and serve.

VARIATIONS:

Sweet and Savory Polenta “Lasagna”

Add: 1/2 cup golden raisins & 1/2 cup pine nuts

Prepare like the master recipe, adding the raisins and pine nuts when you add the chicken stock and lemon juice to the sausage and onions.

Sausage, Mushroom, Olive Polenta “Lasagna”

Add: 4 rounded tablespoons store-bought black or green olive tapenade.

Prepare like the master recipe, adding the tapenade to the ricotta.

Sausage, Mushroom, Pesto “Lasagna”

Add: 4 tablespoons store-bought good-quality pesto

Prepare like the master recipe, adding the pesto to the ricotta.

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