Broccoli Rabe Polenta Lasagna
serves 4 (with some leftovers)
I can't take full credit from coming up with this basic idea. It originated with Carol
Field, a journalist resident in San Francisco who authored "The Italian Baker"
and "Italy in Small Bites". She taught this recipe in cooking class at the Tante
Marie Cooking School in San Francisco.
But I made several modifications to her basic recipe which makes my version lighter and
even more luscious that her original recipe. My modifications include adding nutmeg to the
polenta, using a tomato sauce without meat (not a ragu as she uses), and adding mushrooms
to the layers between the polenta. The combination of nutmeg in the polenta and hot pepper
flakes in the tomato sauce are an uncommonly happy pair. The peppery sweetness of the
nutmeg fits nicely against the more aggressive spiciness of the hot pepper flakes.
Ditty's version makes such a delicious Sunday Supper, I had to share it with
friends of this "Sunday Supper Home Page" even though it is not a "Ditty
2 medium size potatoes (any type is fine)
4 cups cold water (to cook polenta)
1 cups polenta meal
1 bunch broccoli rabe
salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
- Boil the potatoes in a large quantity of water until done. Remove them from the water
and cool slightly. Put the cooked potatoes through a mouli (coarse blade) or ricer.
- Heat 4 cups of water and add riced potatoes. Add the broccoli rabe. Cook about 15
- To the same pot containing riced potatoes and broccoli rabe, slowly start adding the
pre-measured polenta meal. Stir it constantly with a whisk to prevent the polenta from
clumping. The broccoli rabe will start to break down into very small bits through
continuous stirring as the polenta cooks.
- Continue to stir with whisk or wooden spoon until the polenta is done (about 25
minutes). It will be done when it starts to pull away easily from the sides of the pan.
- When the polenta is done, season it with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
- Have ready three 9" round pans lightly coated with olive
- Spread the cooked polenta equally and evenly into each of the pans. It should form no
more than a " layer in each pan. Let them cool.
1- 28 oz tin of imported whole Italian tomatoes
1- 26 oz tetra pack of Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 large clove garlic
small handful of parsley (chopped)
1/2 handful of fresh basil leaves (chopped)
1/2 tsp of hot dry pepper flakes (or to taste)
- Remove all seeds from the tinned tomatoes.
- Add all of the ingredients to a large saucepan and cook uncovered over a low flame until
the sauce is reduced by 2/3's. This will take about 1 hour.
Between the polenta layers:
- 4 Gingrass Spicy Pork and Fennel Sausages: sautéed, cooled and thinly sliced
- 6-8 large brown mushrooms: sliced and sautéed with olive oil and tsp of lemon juice
(too keep the mushrooms from turning gray-brown.
- Oil the bottom and sides of a 9" round, 4 " deep soufflé dish or other
suitable deep container which is the same shape and size as polenta layers you made.
- Place one layer of the cooled polenta as the bottom layer, cover it with a generous
layer of tomato sauce, add a layer of the sliced sausages and mushrooms and top with a few
thin slices of asiago cheese. Place the second polenta layer on top of the cheese and
continue layering as before. Add the third layer of polenta and cover it with the
remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle a few thin slices of cheese on top. Lay a sheet of foil
loosely over the top and bake in a 350 deg oven for 40 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.
- Cut into cake-like wedges. If you have any extra sauce, pass it separately in a bowl.
- A tossed green salad with a garlic flavored olive oil dressing could be served on the
- Potatoes: When using potatoes to make riced or mashed
potatoes, I generally don't peel them. I just scrub the skin thoroughly with a vegetable
brush to remove all the dirt. According to Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking",
the "peel contains a disproportionate amount of nutrients considering its share of
the weight" so I try to cook potatoes with the skins on as much as possible. The skin
of the potato will mostly disappear when it is riced or mashed.
- Polenta: After reading Gary Nabhan's book "Songbirds,
Truffles and Wolves" about how polenta caused people to go crazy in the late 1700's
and even early into the 1900's, I've served less polenta in our house. Polenta is simply
ground, dried corn kernels. Unlike, the American Indian treatment of corn, Italians did
not uses any ash, calcium carbonate or other mineral salts to process their corn. They
simply grind it which does not release its niacin, the most nutritious part of the corn.
If polenta is eaten in large quantities as your staple diet, as it was for Italians for
these two centuries, missing out on the niacin can cause a disease called pellagra.
This disease eventually causes people to go crazy, hence the phrase il pozzo di polenta
(the "man who went crazy from polenta").
- Broccoli Rabe: Use only the top 1/3 of each stalk and
pluck off most of the older outer leaves. These parts are stringy and will give the
polenta an odd stringy texture if not trimmed off.
- Round pans: To make 3 layers of equal size, I used 3
separate tart pans with removable bottoms. But you could also use a cake ring on top of a
cookie sheet. The most important aspect is to use 3 round pans, the same diameter as your
deep dish. Alternatively, you could spread the polenta onto one large cookie sheet and
trim it down to the right size after it has cooled. The biggest disadvantage of using this
method is the amount of wasted polenta. It's best to make each layer as one solid piece
rather than patching a layer together so it will stay together nicely when cut into wedges
- Freshly grated nutmeg: In previous recipes, I
have talked about the importance of using freshly grated nutmeg. There is such a
difference between the pungent flavor of freshly grated nutmeg and the bottled powder, it
is really worth the effort to grate it yourself.