The roasted bell peppers and kalamata olives, found in our Intermediate Pantry on the following pages, make the marinara sauce come alive. Try substituting any kind of Italian cheeses in place of the mozzarella and Parmesan--provolone and Romano in particular.
2 cups tomato-and-basil pasta sauce (such as Muir Glen)
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (7-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained and sliced
1 (16-ounce) tube of polenta, cut into 12 slices
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook 10 minutes, stirring sauce occasionally. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange the polenta slices over the sauce, and spread remaining sauce over polenta. Sprinkle with cheeses. Bake casserole at 350° for 20 minutes or until bubbly.
There's big flavor to the sauce - you'd never know it was made with shortcuts like bottled peppers and tomato sauce. The balsamic vinegar is a must. The casserole itself is warm and hearty, but I would bake in individual gratin dishes next time for easier serving and better presentation.
I love recipes like this that are basic and easy so you can personalize. I don't care too much for an overload of red peppers in anything. So, instead, I used 1c. store bought spicy red bell pepper pasta sauce and 1c. store bought tomato basil pasta sauce, 1/2 can chopped artichoke hearts, the olives, balsalmic, and black pepper as given in recipe and let simmer according to directions. Meanwhile, I grilled 2 chicken breasts and cubed. I smashed up the polenta as others suggested and added a layer of the chicken breasts on top of the polenta. Everything else was according to the directions. Next time I'll use a little bit more sauce - maybe 1/2c. more. Wow! This was great!
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