Polenta: It’s not just that soft, creamy stuff you eat all winter to stay alive. Rather than making yet another pasta dish, I often bake up a sheet of flavor-infused polenta — with fresh herbs, Parmesan rind, bacon or garlic — and use it as a substitute for noodles. This play on lasagna combines pungent blue cheese, pesto and savory caramelized onions for a creamy polenta casserole that needs nothing more than a simple salad beside it.
Learn the technique in the colorful, and creamy, video below:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large sweet onions, sliced into thin rings
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 1/4 cups milk
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups medium-ground cornmeal or polenta
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
- 1/3 pound blue cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup pesto
- 4 slices prosciutto
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, stir well to coat, cover with a lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes without stirring.
- In the meantime, bring the stock, 3 cups of milk and the salt to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. Add the polenta, stir well, bring back to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Flip the onions so the browned ones on the bottom are now on the top. Re-cover and cook for 15 more minutes without stirring.
- When the polenta is creamy and thickened, remove from heat and pour onto an oiled sheet pan. Spread evenly over the pan, season with coarse salt and allow to cool and set completely — about 45 minutes to an hour.
- While the polenta is cooling, mix together the mascarpone, crumbled blue cheese and 1/4 cup milk until combined but still chunky. Add a little more milk if it's too thick to spread easily.
- Season with salt and pepper, cover and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Trim the cooked polenta to make two rectangular slabs you can layer in your baking dish, sliding a spatula under the slabs to loosen them from the pan without breaking them. If they do crack or separate, it's not a big deal — you can just reassemble them in the baking dish.
- Spread the bottom of the baking dish with half the pesto, then transfer the first polenta layer on top. Spread an even layer of the blue-cheese mixture on top of the polenta, then add a thin layer of caramelized onions and sprinkle lightly with Parmesan.
- Top with prosciutto, spread the rest of the pesto on top, then add the second layer of polenta. Spread the top of the casserole with the remainder of the blue-cheese mixture and top with the rest of the Parmesan.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then remove, preheat the broiler and broil on high heat for 5 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling.
- Remove and allow to cool and set for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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