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I love polenta – it is total comfort food and a great base for a variety of vegetables and great with tomato sauce and cheese. My favorite way to make polenta is with sundried tomatoes, olives, cheese and spinach-  put it in the fridge until it gets hard, dust it with flour and pan fry in olive oil. Served with a hearty tomato sauce it is really one of the best things to eat. This time though, I didn’t feel like frying the polenta. I wanted something lighter but still comforting and flavorful, so I decided to use the polenta rectangles as a base for lasagna. It was really good and something I will certainly make again.

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This is also my contribution to Marie of Proud Italian Cook and Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita ‘s Event: Festa Italiana. All Entries due March 22nd. Please click on either of their links for participation guidelines!

INGREDIENTS:

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for the polenta:

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4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup polenta
½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
½ cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
¼ cup capers, drained
½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and julienned
2 cups fresh baby spinach

for the sauce:

1 large can of san marzano plum tomatoes
4 TBS olive oil
½ yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS tomato paste
dash of each: oregano, basil, thyme
salt & pepper to taste
splash of balsamic vinegar

METHOD:

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Grease a square cake pan. Bring veggie broth to a boil and add polenta. Turn heat down to low and gently simmer for about 12-15 minutes or until polenta is thick and and sticks to your spoon. Add half the cheese, herbs, capers and tomatoes. Pour mixture into cake pan and put in the fridge for about 3 hours.

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After about 2 hours, make the tomato sauce. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Remove tomatoes from can using a spoon – reserve the liquid. Place them on a foil lined cookie sheet and season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place in the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes.

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In a large saucepan. Heat up the olive oil, add the onions and saute until transparent and soft then add the garlic, keep cooking until garlic becomes aromatic. Then add the reserved tomato sauce and the tomato paste, then the spices. Then add the tomatoes from the oven, break them apart with your spoon and cook down for about 30 minutes. Add a splash of balsamic.

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Take your polenta out of the fridge. Cut it in half, horizontally, then cut it into 18 rectangles. Line the bottom of a large baking dish with 6 rectangles. Place sauce, a sprinkle of cheese and some spinach on top, then another layer of polenta. Keep doing this until all your ingredients are used up. Then shred a little more Parmesan on top. Place in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes or until heated through. Serves 6.