This baked polenta casserole is essentially like a polenta lasagna – all of the flavor of the home cooked favorite, but super easy and naturally gluten free!
I love a good lasagna, but I have to say this baked polenta casserole offers a great alternative when meal prep time is tight or you want to simply throw together something quick and easy on a weeknight.
With only 8 ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand, this recipe couldn't be simpler.
As with all of my recipes, it's designed to prep-ahead to make dinner time easy.
I hope you love it!
Baked Polenta Casserole
- 1 cup medium grind cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 # lean ground turkey
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning*
- ~24 oz jar spaghetti sauce
- ~1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup cornmeal, whisking constantly.
- Add 1⁄2 tsp salt and reduce heat to low. Continue to cook for 30-35 minutes. Whisk occasionally, making sure to scrape edges/bottom of pan to avoid sticking. Remove from heat.
- In a large sauté pan over med-high heat, cook the following for ~12 minutes: 1 # ground turkey (break apart as you cook), 8 oz sliced mushrooms, 2T Italian seasoning.
- Stir in ~24oz jar of spaghetti sauce, remove from heat.
- Grease a 9×13 pan w/ olive oil.
- Assemble by layering in a 9×13” pan:– 1/3 turkey tomato sauce– layer of polenta (spread with a knife)– 1/3 turkey tomato sauce– layer of polenta– remaining turkey tomato sauce
- Sprinkle w/ 1⁄2c parmesan cheese, optional
- Bake for 30 mins, covered, or until bubbly. Cool ~10min.
What are the nutritional benefits of this baked polenta casserole?
Comfort food doesn't have to be unhealthy!
This baked polenta casserole is full of healthy ingredients. Here are some of the nutritional highlights!
- Turkey: In addition to being a low fat source of protein, turkey contains significant amounts of B Vitamins, selenium and zinc.
- Mushrooms: There are of course many kinds of edible mushrooms but the ones you most commonly find in the grocery store are either white button mushrooms or cremini (baby bella) mushrooms. Mushrooms are an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium as well as B-vitamins, copper and potassium.
- Tomatoes: Packed with antioxidants, tomatoes may help reduce the risk of several kinds of cancer. Furthermore, they contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and potassium, many of which most people don't get enough of.
How do I choose a healthy pasta sauce?
Of course to maintain this recipe's stellar nutritional profile, it's important to choose a healthy pasta sauce!
One of the most important aspects to look at is added sugar. Many jarred spaghetti sauces have added sugar, which is totally unnecessary given the natural sweetness of ripe tomatoes!
Also keep an eye on the sodium content. As with all canned and jarred foods, you have to be careful of the amount of salt or you can easily surpass the daily sodium recommendations in just one meal.
Many healthy pasta sauces will be labeled “no added sugar” or “low sodium” on the front, but sometimes you just have to read the ingredients and make the best choice you can.
You may want to check what type of oil is used in jarred pasta sauce as well, as some are made with canola or soybean oil.
Also keep in mind that tomatoes are on the Environmental Working Group's “dirty dozen” so if organic sauce fits in your budget, it's a worthwhile splurge.
What substitutions can I make?
The idea of a polenta lasagna is a highly versatile concept. Feel free to make substitutions based on what you have / your family's preferences. Here are a few ideas:
- To make it vegetarian – omit the turkey and stir in white beans along with the marinara sauce after you cook the mushrooms.
- Use grass fed ground beef if you prefer it to turkey.
- Add some chopped kale or spinach to the mushrooms for some added greens. This is a great way to get some extra greens into your kids' diets!
- Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Mushrooms go really well with polenta, but zucchini, bell peppers or eggplant would all be delicious as well.
How can I meal prep baked polenta casserole?
Depending on how much you want to prep ahead, there are several approaches you can take to meal prepping this recipe.
If you'd like, go ahead and prepare and assemble the whole thing (through step 8). All you'll need to do on the actual day you eat it is bake!
If you prefer to assemble later, make the polenta and meat sauce and store separately until you're ready to cook.
Any other tips for making great polenta?
Yes! Make sure to check out my post on how to make polenta from cornmeal here!
What are some other healthy Italian-inspired recipes?
For ideas on how to use pantry and freezer ingredients, make sure to download our full Prep Dish-style pantry / freezer menu here!