This colourful and warming lasange features olive-dotted polenta sheets in place of traditional pasta sheets, layers of rich roasted vegetable sauce, and a creamy, salty cannellini bean sauce.
Crank up the music, pour yourself some wine – this is a recipe to spend an afternoon over.
Yes, it is a little time consuming, but it’s well worth it. The result is hearty and gratifying without being too rich and heavy. And there are a few processes you can do simultaneously to save time – while the veggies are roasting, make the polenta sheets and so on.
Using thin layers of polenta instead of pasta was inspired by the wonderful Jude Blereau and it’s a wonderful gluten-free option or if you want something a little hardier than pasta. The spiced cannellini bean sauce is luscious and creamy but you can substitute it for a bechamel sauce and sprinkle cheese on top if you want a more traditional lasagna feel.
Vegan Polenta lasagna with roasted vegetables, spinach & Spiced cannellini bean sauce
1 bunch spinach or 1 box frozen, thawed
⅓ cup chopped walnuts, for topping
Roast vegetable sauce
2 small red capsicums (peppers)
200g mushrooms, chopped roughly
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh oregano and thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp paprika
sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
Spiced cannellini bean sauce
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic
½ -1 tsp cayenne pepper (or paprika if don’t like heat)
4 tbsp olive oil – more may be needed
3 tbsp filtered water
sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Polenta lasagna sheets
4 cups water
1 good quality stock cube
1 tsp salt
100gm chopped olives
Roast vegetable sauce
Roasting brings out a rich, warming, sweet element that you just can’t achieve on a stovetop and transforms a basic tomato sauce into a thing of beauty.
Preheat the oven 180°C/350°F
Dice the eggplant into small squares and toss in oil. Place on an oiled baking tray
Cut the capsicums (peppers) in half, deseed then cut into quarters and brush with olive oil. Place on an oiled baking tray
Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a baking dish, brush with oil and put a little cracked pepper and salt over them
Roast the vegetables until they are soft. The eggplant will be slightly golden, the skin of the capsicum dark and the tomatoes very soft. Using some tongs, remove the skins of the tomatoes, they should come off easily. Once the capsicum has cooled, chop into small pieces
Heat some olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and cook the onions until translucent, around 5 minutes
Add the garlic, paprika and dried herbs if using, cook for 2 minutes then add the mushrooms. Cook until soft. Add the eggplant, capsicum and tomatoes, stirring well and breaking up the tomatoes
Add the tomato paste, fresh herbs if using, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 15 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally and making sure it doesn’t stick. The sauce should be thick not too watery. If it is, cook until the excess water evaporates. Taste and add any more salt or sugar if needed. Leave aside.
Prepare the spinach
While the sauce is cooking, thoroughly wash the spinach and place into a saucepan and cover with a lid. Don’t shake off the excess water but put straight into the saucepan as the water will help it to wilt. Cook until wilted, it should only take a few minutes. Put into a colander (reserving liquid if you want – great to add to a soup base) and wash under cold water to stop the cooking process. Squeeze out the water very, very well – it will be dry looking and small. If using frozen spinach, do the same. Excess water will make the lasagna soggy. Chop the spinach roughly.
Spiced Cannellini Bean Sauce
Drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Place beans, rosemary, garlic, cayenne, water, olive oil, salt and pepper into a food processor. Put on the lid and start processing, adding more oil if needed. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.
I used instant polenta so it needs constant attention and is a quick process. Have a wooden spoon handy so you can quickly swap it for the whisk.
Prepare 2 baking trays with baking paper and have a spatula ready to spread out the polenta into sheets. Bring 4 cups water to the boil, add the salt and crumbled stock cube and make sure it’s dispersed. Using a whisk, whisk the polenta into the water as you slowly pour it into the water. This prevents lumps and is easier than stirring in with a wooden spoon.
Add the chopped olives and then stir with a wooden spoon once it thickens slightly until the mixture has thickened
Put large spoonfuls of polenta onto the waiting baking trays, smoothing them as flat and evenly as you can – you must work quickly – to form rectangles or squares, depending on the dish you are using. They will be uneven but should be as thin as you can manage them, about 2-3mm
Leave them to cool. If you have any pieces left over, these can be frozen and grilled/made into chips for a quick meal, yum!
Brush the bottom of your baking pan with some of the sauce (or oil) so the polenta doesn’t stick. Slice polenta into useable shapes and line the bottom of your baking dish with the slices
Spread the roast vegetable sauce over the polenta then top it with another layer of polenta. Sprinkle the spinach over polenta then pour cannellini bean sauce over the top, spreading carefully with a spoon. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts then bake for around 45 minutes until the sauce has turned slightly golden.