I’m always up for trying new recipes, so when I saw this Polenta Layer Cake With Meat Sauce, I made it. It was good, but it took up most of two evenings to make it. 30 minutes just stirring the polenta? It was good, but I don’t want to spend hours over the stove to make what is essentially a casserole. On the other hand, we did really like it.
So I simplified the recipe, thinking I could come up with a less labor-intensive version. This is that version.
The polenta is easy – you can put it in the crockpot. Boil 6 cups of water, and pour it into the crock. The recipe says to grease the crock first, but I think the boiling water melts it all off anyway. Add the polenta, some salt, and butter, and cook for 4-6 hours. I try to remember to stir it every hour, but it’ll still work if you don’t – you just might have a few lumps.
When it’s done, grease a 13×9 pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper just slightly larger then the pan, and grease both sides of it. A spray-on grease will work, butter is better. Spread half the polenta in the bottom of the pan, then lay down the parchment paper, and spread the other half on top.
Put it in the fridge to chill for a few hours.
In the meantime, make the sauce. I chopped up a bell pepper, some carrots, some celery, an onion, and garlic, but you can use whatever you have in the fridge. Brown the sausage in a Dutch oven, then drain it and set it aside. Sauté the vegetables in some olive oil until soft. Add the sausage back, then add a big can of diced tomatoes, juice and all, and some Italian seasoning and let it simmer for half an hour. It would be nice if you stirred it every once in a while, but you don’t have to.
When the half hour is up, add a 6-ounce can of tomato paste, fresh basil, and a pound of sliced mushrooms. Simmer another 10 minutes until it’s thickened. Salt to taste.
You could skip this entirely, and use 6 cups of your favorite meat sauce instead. But I like homemade tomato sauces.
When you’re ready to assemble, just lift off the top layer of polenta, parchment paper and all:
Spread half the sauce on top:
Put the other polenta layer on top (without the parchment paper, please!):
Add the rest of the sauce, and spread the cheese over the top.
Bake at 350F until browned and bubbly.
And serve. It’s best with warm, crusty bread.
It’s even better the next day. I was just as happy with my version as the longer version, and I’m much more likely to make this. To make it even easier, you could make the sauce in bulk and freeze it, then just thaw it out while the polenta cooks.