Polenta Napoleon with Mixed Herb Pesto

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 55 min
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Cook: 25 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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2 cups milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 cups cornmeal

Mixed Herb Pesto:

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon sambal*


2 zucchini

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup tomato sauce, recipe follows

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Tomato Sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

28 ounce can whole Italian tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt


Special equipment:
food processor or food mill an 8-inch springform pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  2. For the polenta: In a large saucepan combine the milk, heavy cream, water, olive oil, and kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Pour the polenta onto the plastic covered baking sheet and spread to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Let cool at least 15 minutes. 
  4. For the pesto: Puree the basil, mint, cilantro, shallots, and garlic. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, while the food processor is running. Stir in the Parmesan, kosher salt, and sambal. 
  5. For the lasagna: Cut the zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat and saute the zucchini slices until lightly golden. Season with salt and pepper. 
  6. Oil an 8-inch round spring form pan. Spread 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Cut the polenta into 3 (7 3/4-inch) rounds. Brush the tops with the Mixed Herb Pesto. 
  7. Place 1 disk in the bottom of the spring form pan. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of tomato sauce and arrange half the zucchini on top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Cover with the second round of polenta, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, the rest of the zucchini, and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Top with the last polenta round, the remaining tomato sauce, and Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes. 
  8. Remove from the spring form pan, cut into wedges and serve. 

Tomato Sauce:

  1. In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic, and chili flakes in the oil until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes (juice and all), tomato paste, and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Cool the tomato sauce for 10 minutes. 
  2. Puree the sauce in a food processor or food mill. Stir in the extra-virgin olive oil, marjoram, basil, and kosher salt. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. 
  3. Yield: 6 cups 
  4. Preparation Time: 15 minutes 
  5. Cooking Time: 30 minutes 
  6. Inactive Time: 10 minutes

Cook’s Note

*Can be found in specialty Asian markets