Friday, February 1, 2013

Polenta Lasagna with Wild Mushrooms

There are many fun ways to make lasagna that don't involve noodles. For one idea, see my post from last fall for Potato Lasagna. This dish, made with slices of polenta in place of pasta, is a little time-consuming to put together, but a fantastically hearty dinner once ready.

  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cups chopped portobello mushroom caps
  • 4 cups chopped shiitake mushroom caps
  • 3 cups chopped button mushroom caps
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) undrained cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups shredded Daiya mozzarella, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 (15-ounce) carton Tofutti Better than Ricotta
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 2 (16-ounce) tubes polenta*
  • Cooking spray
1. Combine the dried porcini and the hot water in a small bowl, and let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain in a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup mushroom liquid.  Discard the remaining liquid.  Rinse and drain the porcini and finely chop; set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the porcini, portobello, shiitake, and button mushrooms; Sprinkle with the salt and saute for 8 minutes.  Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, combine the reserved 1/4 cup mushroom liquid in a saucepan with the wine, tomato paste, rosemary, oregano, and canned tomatoes.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Set aside.

4. Combine 1 cup mozzarella in a bowl with the thyme, Tofutti ricotta, and Ener-G eggs.  Set aside.

5. To assemble the lasagna, cut each polenta tube into 20 slices, for 40 slices total.  Arrange 15 polenta slices in the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Top with 2 and 1/2 cups mushroom mixture, 1 cup tomato mixture, and 1 and 1/4 cups ricotta mixture.

6. Repeat the layers - 15 polenta slices, the remaining mushroom mixture (about 3 and 1/2 cups), 1 cup tomato sauce, and the remaining ricotta mixture.  Top with the final 10 polenta slices and the remaining tomato sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella.

7  Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes before dividing into 8 entree portions.

*As with my Polenta with Sausage, I recommend Food Merchant's tube polenta, since they specify that their product is vegan. The beta carotene often added to polenta may not be vegan if suspended in gelatin first, so check with the company if you purchase another brand.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 portion), Calories 301 

Tasting Notes:
As far as taste goes, this is delicious. My favorite parts were the richly condensed mushrooms and the creaminess of the ricotta mixture, which, when combined, were reminiscent of a strogonoff sauce.  I do feel that the quartet of mushroom varieties was lost under all the cheese and sauce; certainly I wasn't able to distinguish the porcini at all. If you want to simplify things, consider using only 1 or 2 types of mushroom. I would also leave out the rosemary and use sage instead, as I love the way sage and mushrooms pair together.

The dish loses some points, unfortunately, for preparation, both because it's lengthy, and because it becomes very watery in the oven as the mushrooms release liquid. This was a problem not only for serving (I recommend bowls, not plates, as it was hard to dish out servings that looked like individual portions of lasagna), but also while baking, as I ended up with a scorched mess on the bottom of the oven as soon as the sauce started bubbling over. I recommend placing a baking sheet underneath the pan to collect drips. Still, if you don't mind the somewhat sloppy presentation, you'll eat up every last bit.


When I originally made this recipe, I critiqued the lengthy preparation. The dish is quite well suited, however, to making in advance. In today's busy world, it is essential to have make-ahead recipes up your sleeve, and this lasagna is one of those gems. You can prep the entire thing up to 2 days ahead, but cover and refrigerate before baking.  It actually bakes better this way (no bubbling over or messy drips in the oven), although do cook for 55 minutes covered instead of 45 minutes.

Perhaps because the polenta had extra time to soak up some of the tomato sauce, portions also came out a little bit cleaner:

But you don't sacrifice anything in terms of flavor.

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