Polenta Lasagna with Eggplant
I’ve been working on vegan lasagna recipes, mostly because they are the best and tastiest comfort food in the world (with the possible exception of mac+cheese.) Obviously lasagna is a challenge if you’re attempting to build a repetoire that is both gluten-free and vegan. However, there are recipes that are relatively easy to adapt, while retaining the richness and savory delight of a true Italian lasagna… and this is one.
This gluten-free, vegan recipe takes 45 minutes to cook the polenta, which then needs to be chilled until set. When you are ready to assemble the dish, allow 45 minutes prep time, followed by 45 minutes in the oven, and about ten minutes ‘resting time’ before serving; total time is one hour, 40 minutes. I find it best to allow two hours, start to finish. You can store the lasagna, covered, in the fridge for 24 hours. This freezes well, cooked or uncooked. I always like to make two dishes of lasagna at a time, so that I can freeze one for later.
5 cups water
5½ oz coarse polenta
1½ sea salt
1 large ripe eggplant, cut into 1” cubes
¾ lb cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp (2 fl oz) olive oil
12-14 oz passata (pureed tomatoes)
OR a 6 oz tin of tomato paste, made up 12 oz with hot water to sauce consistency
8 oz vegan basil pesto
2 oz pine nuts, toasted
1. Prepare a 9” x 9” ovenproof dish by lining it with parchment and brushing lightly with oil.
2. In a large saucepan over a high heat, bring the water to the boil and add ½ tsp sea salt. Stir constantly as you add the polenta in a thin stream. Reduce the heat to medium, and continue to stir until the polenta is fully cooked. (This will take about 45 minutes, and it will be creamy and smooth with no ‘bite’ when you taste it.) Pour the polenta into the prepared baking dish and allow to cool for a bit. Cover and refrigerate for two hours or until set.
3. When you are ready to assemble the lasagna, preheat the oven to 400°F.
4. Sprinkle the 1” cubes of eggplant liberally with salt; place in a colander for 30 minutes to drain. Rinse and pat dry.
5. Toss the eggplant and tomatoes with the garlic and 3 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil. Spread out on a large baking tray and pop in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 350°F.
6. While the eggplant and tomatoes are roasting, carefully turn turn the polenta out of the dish. Cut into thirds, and slice each third horizontally into three equal pieces so you end up with nine polenta ‘lasagna sheets.’ Handle carefully using a spatula or palette knife; don’t worry if the pieces break – just fit them back together as you assemble the dish.
7. To assemble the lasagna, brush the baking dish with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil. Spread one third of the tomato passata over the bottom of the dish, and cover with 3 pieces of polenta. Add with half of the tomato–eggplant mixture and half of the pesto, followed by another layer of polenta. Add another third of tomato passata, the remaining eggplant–tomato mixture and the remaining pesto. Top with the final layer of polenta and spread the remaining tomato passata evenly over the top.
8. Cover and bake for about 40 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Let it rest for ten minutes.
9. Just before serving, sprinkle the basil and toasted pine nuts over the top of the lasagna. Serve hot, with a crisp salad or steamed zucchini on the side.
Variation: If you don’t have the time to make the polenta, you can use gluten-free no-boil lasagna sheets – these are obtainable from many supermarkets, these days. If you do so, thin out the passata because the pasta sheets will soak up quite a bit of liquid. Otherwise, follow the recipe above.
Click HERE for the .pdf file.