It's Monday and I have a new meatless main dish to share with you today. I got out of my Meatless Monday habit somehow in the last several months, and have resolved to go back to it. This is a new meatless main dish I made last week. It's very heavily adapted from a recipe Rachael Ray made on 30 Minute Meals. She called it Polenta Vegetable Lasagna, but I get tired of people calling any kind of layered dish a "lasagna", so I renamed my version.
Polenta Veggie Bake
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 cups baby spinach, torn
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt, to taste
2 tbsp butter
2 rounded tbsp flour
1 cup milk (plus more as needed)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (plus more for topping)
4 cups vegetable broth
1⅓ cup quick-cooking polenta
½ cup marinara sauce, divided
For the veggies: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion until it begins to soften. Add the zucchini and mushrooms, and sauté until they become slightly tender. Season with dried thyme. Stir in the spinach and cook just long enough for it to wilt. Remove veggies from skillet and set aside.
For the béchamel: In the same skillet, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for a few minutes over low heat. Slowly whisk in the milk, then bring to a boil until thickened. Stir in ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Return heat to low to keep warm while you make the polenta.
For the polenta: Bring the vegetable broth to a low boil in a small saucepan. Very slowly stir in the polenta. Whisk the polenta constantly until thickened and smooth, 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding some salt if necessary.
To assemble the dish: Preheat the broiler. Spread ¼ cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 1½ qt. broiler-safe baking dish. On top of that, spread half of the polenta. Then layer on half of the sautéed veggies. Give the béchamel sauce a stir; if it has thickened up too much, stir in a little more milk until it is the right consistency. Pour all of it over the veggies. Top that with the remaining marinara sauce, the remaining polenta, and grate some more fresh Parmesan over the top.
Place dish under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until Parmesan starts to brown. Serve warm.
Makes 6 servings.
I changed Rachael's recipe a lot. First, she made her own red sauce from scratch, but I felt this dish had enough going on without that nonsense. I just used my favorite jarred sauce. I only ended up using 1/2 cup of it anyway; that's definitely not worth all the work of making it from scratch.
I also added way more veggies to mine. While she used carrots and celery in her red sauce, the only other veggie in her recipe was some frozen spinach. I sauteed onions, zucchini, mushrooms, and fresh baby spinach. I think the whole point of meatless meals is to pack in the veggies!
The other major difference is the way I made the polenta. I used all vegetable broth instead of part milk and part broth, simply because of my daughter's dairy allergy. (I made her a separate little dish with the red sauce, veggies, and polenta, leaving out the bechamel and parmesan on top.) I also left out the fennel, as I'm not a fennel fan.
The resulting dish was really good. I loved the combination of flavors and textures going on in this dish. I've always enjoyed combining red sauce and white sauce, and then adding in the hearty polenta and the perfectly sauteed veggies makes it all just perfect.
This dish is hard to photograph, and the picture at the top doesn't really show all it has going on, so here are some pics of it after we served it.
Creamy, yummy deliciousness.
I served this with garlic bread.
My husband and I loved this dish. My kids weren't quite as thrilled with it. Lena, my five-year-old, picked at it, and Eva, my three-year-old did not even touch the special one I made just for her. :( Oh well, I guess you can't win them all!