A meal worth gathering around, prepared with fresh ingredients and love… that’s how traditions are formed. This Polenta Lasagna Bolognese made with Homemade Marinara Sauce OR your favourite Pasta sauce isn’t just an incredibly delicious and comforting dish for cold Winter days and nights, it’s also a tradition in our household!
The dawn of a new year will always be exciting for my husband and myself. We got married four days before the new year, just over two years ago, so the start of a new year will always be associated with memories of starting a new life, a new story, a new tradition together. So while January is the time for new resolutions for most people, for Mr K and I, it’s about creating new traditions and continuing old ones. And those traditions linked to food seem to be the strongest ones for predictable reasons. 🙂[bctt tweet=”Lasagna made with Polenta tastes even better than regular Lasagna! Get the #recipe!”]
Today’s post is about one such tradition – Polenta Lasagna Bolognese! When we got married a couple of years ago, my husband had never had polenta up until that point in his life. As a student, living on my own, I had been eating polenta for years (and loving it), so when the new year rolled around two years ago, and the temperatures plummeted in January, I wanted to make something deliciously warm and cozy to surprise Mr K with. The result was this glorious Polenta Lasagna Bolognese and the stirrings of a beautiful tradition, one we hope to continue for as long as we can. Making this dish is always a challenge for us, because we both end up “taste testing” the bolognese so much that we are always at risk of not having enough for the final dish. 🙂
Most people that I know who like bolognese sauce, prefer it with basil or thyme, but my choice has always been oregano. That was how I ate it and loved it growing up, and I’m yet to find a reason to part ways with that tradition after all these years. 🙂
We usually make this dish with my Homemade Marinara Sauce with Hidden Vegetables – A sauce that I make sure is in my fridge! However, sometimes you don’t always have homemade at home, so it can be made with your favourite store bought pasta sauce, like Ragu marinara sauce. The delicious tomato pasta sauce that also has a rich history that is simmered in tradition. It’s a history that goes back over 80 years, when Assunta Cantisano, arrived in the US from Italy, with her family’s tomato sauce recipe, and not a great deal else. A blend of farm-grown ingredients and uncompromising standards that truly were simmered in tradition, made her family recipe grow from local favourite to best selling brand of pasta sauce in the US.
While I love making pasta and pasta sauce from scratch, time and life don’t always allow me the luxury to do that. For moments like those, I like to keep some pasta sauce handy in my pantry, but it also makes me picky about the kind of pasta sauce I buy, and the one I always seem to reach for at the grocery store is Ragu.
– Ragu has no artificial colours, flavours and no high fructose syrup.
– It’s fresh and has no artificial taste. They use farm-grown ingredients for their products that are affordable and trusted since 1937.
The cheesy goodness, the polenta infused with the flavourful bolognese sauce, the hidden vegetables… there’s so much that I like about this dish over regular pasta. Also, the bolognese sauce can make or break a lasagna, so why not use great ingredients? It’s gluten-free, and the Ragu makes it easy to prepare the bolognese as well. Plus it’s super freezer friendly!
While I do love creamy, cheesy polenta layers, the one thing that I find irresistible about this dish is that bubbling surface when it comes out of the oven. You know those edges where the meat sauce bubbles and mixes with the cheese to form that perfect cheesy crust? That’s what I’m talking about! 🙂
- 1.5 lb lean ground beef
- 21/2 cups of your HOMEMADE MARINARA RECIPE or ¾ bottle of Ragu Marinara (23.9 oz bottle)
- 2 -3 tbsp oil
- 12 oz zucchini, cut into pieces
- 2 celery ribs, cut into cubes
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp chilli flakes/crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 tbsp chopped oregano
- Salt to taste
- 1 ½ cups stone-ground polenta
- 7 ½ cups water
- 4 tbsp butter
- 5 oz parmesan cheese, grated
- ¼ cup milk (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 8 oz grated cheese (I used a mix of monterey jack and mozzarella)
- Place the zucchini, celery, cloves and chilli flakes in a food processor or blender and process until pureed.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat and add the vegetable puree and saute for 5-6 minutes until the vegetable puree is thick and cooked through.
- Add ground beef and cook until the meat has browned. Add Ragu marinara sauce, sugar, pepper, balsamic vinegar and about ½ tsp of salt (you will need more, so just season as you go).
- Mix well and reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Add chopped oregano and simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
- The bolognese sauce can be stored for later use in the fridge or freezer, OR kept aside until the polenta is ready.
- PREVIOUS DAY - soak the stone-ground polenta in water OVERNIGHT.
- In a large pot, place the soaked polenta and ALL of the water, and bring the water to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- When the water comes to a boil, stir the polenta till it becomes thick and starts to “spit” and bubble.
- Reduce the heat to simmer the polenta and whisk/mix frequently until it thickens and starts to come off the sides of the pot (about 30-40 minutes).
- Add salt (to taste), butter and parmesan cheese and stir until the cheese and butter have mixed through.
- When the polenta cools, it will thicken more. If this happens, you can loosen it up by adding a little water/milk and warming it up briefly on the stove.
- Preheat oven to 400°F/205°C. Butter a 9 x 9 inch oven-safe dish.
- Place half of the polenta mix in the buttered dish and spread it out on the bottom. Spread half the bolognese sauce and half of the grated cheese. Next spread the rest of the polenta on top of the cheese. Follow it with the rest of the bolognese sauce and then cheese. (You can cover the dish and refrigerate until needed, OR freeze for a few days).
- Cover the top with foil and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes (longer if it had been refrigerated). Then uncover the dish and let the cheese melt, brown and bubble (about 15 minutes, depending on your oven).
- Remove the dish from the oven and let it rest for 15 - 20 minutes before cutting into it. Best served warm.
You could use quick polenta for this recipe too, though I would recommend traditional stone-ground polenta. Quick polenta tastes quite bland in comparison, although adding extra parmesan cheese could help.
This bolognese recipe should serve you well, whether you want to make polenta lasagna, pasta lasagna or spaghetti bolognese. It’s an absolute winner and has all the makings of a new tradition for your family too! It’s a warm, comforting meal and is a fantastic way to get some hidden veggies in to your kids too!
While Assunta created a legacy with her tried and tested family tradition, I’m glad that it made it’s way to our dining table and helped us create a delicious new tradition as well.
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