Make Ahead Pesto Polenta Lasagna


pesto polenta lasagna photo by vsimon

This recipe is from, submitted by Fiffen. It is a super simple do ahead dish. All it requires is layering purchased ingredients, packaging, and baking.

Sometimes you just need a plop and drop dinner. This one is rich and satisfying, a small serving is filling.  Serve with a green salad and vinaigrette on a meatless Monday.

Simplify your life with make ahead meals

Prep the lasagna and freeze some for later. Layer in small ceramic or glass containers with tight fitting lids. Package just one or two portions per container. This is what personal chefs do for clients everyday.

Proper containers are one of the secrets to successful make ahead meals.

Reusable, stackable containers

We use mostly small Pyrex rectangles that hold 3 1/2 cups. They hold 1-2 portions, have tight fitting lids, and stack well. There is an example of these containers on Amazon.

If you have a Wal-Mart nearby, you can buy these small rectangles individually, no need to buy an assortment. Wal-Mart is not my favorite store, but we have not found this size in singles anywhere else.

The lasagna in the photo is made in a CorningWare container. This style makes a nice presentation, oven to plate. Make sure to get ones with tight fitting lids, not the loose glass lids.

Small containers make thawing and heating quicker. Pull your dish from the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge. Meals can be refrigerated for several days. So it isn’t critical if you need to change your dinner plans.

Gluten free ingredients

I use Frieda’s prepared polenta. It comes in many flavors, and several work here. I like  mushroom and onion, basil and garlic, even dried tomato and garlic. I get whatever the store has. Look for it in the refrigerated produce section.

Classico marinara is the brand I by. All flavors are gluten free. I usually buy the roasted garlic flavor because it is lower in calories and sodium than the other flavors. But choose what you like.

Roland Pesto is my purchased pesto of choice. It is smooth, flavorful, and deep green. Classico pesto is leafy and unappealingly brownish. 🙁

Shredded cheese makes prepping this recipe quick. I like Sargento brand 6 Cheese Italian for the flavor. It is a handy mix of mozzarella, smoked provolone, asiago, romano, parmesan and fontina cheeses. Simple shredded mozzarella works too.

Sometimes you will see warnings on the internet that shredded cheese may be dusted with wheat flour to prevent clumping. Most often, it is not. And if it is, wheat must be printed on the label.

Pesto Polenta Lasagna submitted by fiffen

serves 8 metric measures
2 -8 oz tubes of prepared polenta total 500 gm
3 cups of marinara sauce 720 gm
1/2 cup pesto 120 ml
1/2 cup pine nuts 70 gm
2 cups shredded cheese (8 oz) 225 gm

Cut polenta into 1/2” slices.

Put a tablespoon or two of marinara on the bottom of an oven safe baking dish, or several small dishes.

Layer half of the polenta slices, marinara sauce, pesto, pine nuts and cheese.

Repeat layers.

Bake right away, refrigerate or freeze for later.

Bake it

Thaw overnight if previously frozen.

Remove any plastic lids.

If it is in one or two portion containers, bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

In a 9×13” pan? Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. 

Microwave it

Remove any plastic lids. The manufacturers say the lids are microwave safe, but it makes me uneasy. I don’t like cooked plastic, so I take the lids off.

Microwave one or two portions for 10 to 15 minutes.

I don’t even try to microwave a big pan of lasagna. The pan would keep hitting the sides of my microwave. And the turntable scrapes against the bottom of the pan. That is really annoying.

Enticing Embellishments

Sauté 8-16 ounces of slice mushrooms and add to the layers.

Sauté 16 ounces of fresh spinach and add to the layers.

Do both. 🙂

What would you like to make ahead?

Enter timtana flour giveaway

Don’t miss out on a chance to win whole-grain gluten free timtana flour. Simply leave a comment by January 6, 2009. Three winners will be announced January 7, 2009.

Need Inspiration for your Thanksgiving leftovers?

You could simply repeat the traditional meal. Or use the leftovers to create different dishes.

Check out the Nourish column at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness newsletter for three tempting recipes.

Turkey Quesadillas with Cranberry Sauce

Turkey and Tomatillo White Chili

Turkey Potpie with Mashed Potato Crust

Do any of these sound good?

Mexican Lasagna-so easy the kids can make it.

easy-mexican-lasagna (2)

easy Mexican lasagna photo by vsimon

My oldest daughter requested I post easy entrees. Actually, most people want easy entrees. So here you go. Mexican Lasagna is  family friendly, budget friendly, and time friendly.

This has been a favorite of our personal chef clients for years. I usually make it in 3 or 4 small Pyrex rectangles. These containers measure approximately 5×7 inches.

We layer the ingredients in each container and the client does the final warming. If you assemble it in 1 or 2 portions per container, it can be quickly warmed in the microwave.

Mexican lasagna freezes well too. So make some for now, and save some for later.

Home alone?

Mexican lasagna is easy for older kids to assemble, and easy to warm themselves if they are eating on their own.

The ingredient amounts are not critical here. You can even make this meatless and the carnivores aren’t likely to notice. Simply mix the chili powder in with the beans if you delete the meat.

I think the refried beans are required though. They add a creamy consistency and help hold this all together. And do try the green chilies, they are not hot.

Is this gluten free? What do I need to watch our for?

Chili powder is usually gluten free. Taco seasoning may not be, and it costs more.

Do not substitute wheat flour tortilla for corn, even if you don’t need gluten free. The corn tortillas are really better here. We use corn tortillas in this recipe for all our clients, glutinous and gluten free.

There are many gluten free commercial varieties of salsa. Keep reading those labels!

Other nutritional concerns

Go for the leanest beef you can find.

This dish can be high sodium if you are not careful, and maybe that does not matter to you.

Refried beans are often high sodium. You can get lower sodium canned whole beans, or cook your own beans without salt. Mash them, or pulse in a blender to get the creamy consistency.

Purchased salsa can vary a great deal in sodium content. Choose lower sodium varieties and well as gluten free. Trying a bit more heat also increases the flavor so you will not miss the reduction in salt.

Cheese can be high sodium. Use sharp cheddar for more flavor, and reduce the cheese to 1 cup.

Easy Mexican Lasagna

Serves 4-6

ingredients metric measure
1 pound ground beef 480 gm
2 tablespoons chili powder 15 gm
12 corn tortillas 12
1- 15 oz can refried beans 425 gm
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 240 gm
1- 4 oz can chopped mild green chiles 120 gm
3 cups salsa, approximately 720 ml
1/2 cup sour cream, optional 120 ml
1 avocado, diced, optional 1

cilantro to garnish, optional

Make and bake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown ground beef with chili powder.

Cut a few of the tortillas into quarters, to fit in the corners of the pan. You can use a knife, but scissors work great too.

In an 9×9 pan, layer 1/2 to 1 cup salsa, 2 tortillas plus some quarters, a few glops of refried beans, about 1/3 of the cooked ground beef, some chiles, and some cheese. No need to be exact here.

Repeat 2-3 times.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Garnish with sour cream, avocado, and cilantro.

Or be your own personal chef and prep the lasagna to bake or microwave later.

Allow cooked ground beef to cool. Layer as above in 3 or 4 smallish  oven safe dishes with lids. Cover and store in the fridge or freezer.

If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Or microwave for 6-10 minutes.

See, it really is easy.