When you see “Dinner 911”, you’ll understand my moniker “Chef Leander: The 5-Minute Gourmet.” These recipes have minimal ingredients and can easily be made when you are in a rush. To find more of them, search Dinner 911 in the Cookbook search bar. Watch the video as I try to “beat the clock.”
Polenta, Asparagus & Marinara—Dinner 911
Start with a good quality marinara. Cook up some creamy polenta and some asparagus. Plate it up nicely with a simple salad and fresh dressing and you have a restaurant-quality meal on the table in less than 15 minutes.
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- 2 oz baby spinach
- 2 oz cherry tomatoes, about 12
- 2 TBSP sunflower seeds
- 2 c water
- 1¼ c sugar-free marinara sauce (such as Newman's Own Marinara)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ c quick-cooking polenta (fine grain, if available)
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 TBSP vegan butter (Earth Balance)
- 10 spears asparagus, trimmed
- 1 recipe Lemon Salad Dressing
- This dinner comes together very quickly! For best results follow this recipe in order and you will have dinner on the table in about 15 minutes.
- Make the salads: Put spinach on the salad plates, add tomatoes, pour on salad dressing and garnish with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds. Move the finished salads to the table.
- Mis en place is the French phrase to describe setting out your recipe ingredients (often in an artful way) so that everything is in its place, measured, and ready for cooking.
- Prepare the ingredients: Measure water into a medium sauce pan. Measure marinara into a glass measuring cup with a pour spout. Stir in the Italian seasoning. Measure the polenta and salt into a glass or small bowl. Portion out the butter to a small plate. Trim the woody ends off the asparagus. Pour a drizzle of olive or avocado oil in your skillet, or use water if you prefer fat-free. Lay out two serving plates on your counter. Now you are ready to cook!
- Heat the pans and the marinara: Turn the water on to boil. Turn on the skillet to heat. Put the marinara in the microwave and turn it on to heat the sauce unattended.
- Start the asparagus: By now the skillet is hot. Put the asparagus in the skillet to lightly char. Keep one eye on the skillet as you begin the polenta.
- Make the polenta: When the water is at a full boil, use your whisk to stir the water as you slowly pour in the polenta. Keep stirring or the polenta will clump. When all the polenta is in the pot, turn the heat down to simmer, add the butter and keep stirring. This is also the moment to check the asparagus. It can be flipped or it may be time to turn it off. The polenta will thicken like hot oatmeal in a flash. Once the "butter" has melted, you can turn the heat off. You want the polenta to be a bit on the runny side.
Plate it up!
- Pour a ring of marinara sauce in a large "o" on the plate. Spoon polenta into the center of the plate. Balance 5 asparagus spears atop the polenta or use only 3 spears if you want this dish to look like a $25 restaurant meal. Sprinkle with some vegan parmesan cheese for a tasty option.
CHEF'S SECRET: Cook double or triple the amount of farro and keep it in the fridge. It's great as a hot breakfast cereal, a side dish, or anywhere you want to increase the nutritional value of your meal. CHEF'S SECRET: Chiffonade is a fancy term for a particular way to cut leafy vegetables. The flat greens are stacked with their stems going the same direction. Once stacked, they are rolled up like a tube and sliced finely perpendicular to the stem. You're going to chop them anyway. Why not make it pretty? Serve with: spinach salad topped with Lemon Salad Dressing
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Polenta, Asparagus & Marinara—Dinner 911
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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