Prep 20 mins Cook 40 mins Eat 50 mins
Fall has arrived and with it the crisp autumn air. Wrap yourself up in a comforter and make this Baked Polenta with Sausage and Tomato Sauce for dinner tonight. You will be glad you did. We made it in our La Cucina Italiana Cooking Class this month and it was a real crowd pleaser.
First, get the 40-minute tomato sauce going by cooking a little onion, then add garlic, a can of crushed tomatoes, a little thyme and white wine…Oh yes, this is Italian! Float a few Italian sausage links in the mixture and your kitchen is going to smell like a cozy little trattoria while the mixture simmers uncovered and reduces.
If you’ve never made polenta before, it’s super easy when you use cornmeal that you can purchase in any supermarket. Yes, polenta is ground corn along with grits, which you will find in the south. Cornmeal, polenta, grits…they all come from the same corn kernel. Some products are ground coarse and Albers cornmeal, pictured here is gritty, but ground fairly fine. This means it will cook up in a flash compared to a coarser grind, which I consider a real advantage when it comes to meal prep.
If you can boil water and stir, you can make polenta, because that is all you do. Whisk the cornmeal into the boiling water, whisking constantly. The process happens so fast – in about 10 minutes or less – and you need all hands on this task until you pour it into a parchment-lined 9 x 13 pan. Set aside the pan to cool and the polenta solidifies like the one pictured here.
Once the polenta is solid, place a lightly oiled baking sheet on top of the 9 x 13 pan and flip it over. Peel away the parchment paper.
Remove the cooked Italian sausages from the pot and let cool slightly before slicing them into 1/2″ thick rounds. It’s starting to get interesting now.
Spread the cooked tomato sauce over the polenta and arrange the Italian sausage slices and some sliced fresh mozzarella cheese on top of the polenta.
Put the baking sheet into a 400° oven and get your table and dinner guests ready for a feast. Although, they are going to flock to the kitchen anyway wondering what the amazing aroma is.
Serve the delicious Baked Polenta with Sausage and Tomato Sauce with additional sauce on the side. Now that’s La Cucina Italiana!
Baked Polenta with Sausage and Tomato Sauce
This recipe adapted from La Cucina Italiana magazine is a real crowd pleaser. You can make the tomato sauce and polenta in advance and assemble the dish to bake just before serving.
4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 links italian sausages
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves or 3 fresh stems
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups white or yellow cornmeal (or coarse polenta)
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, 1/4″ slices
1 pinch Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment or wax paper and have ready for the polenta.
2. Make tomato sauce. In large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Cook in minced garlic for a minute and then immediately add tomatoes and stir. Add wine, whole sausages, thyme sprigs and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring sauce to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced, about 30 minutes or until sauce consistency. Cover when ready.
3. While tomato sauce is cooking, prepare polenta. In a large saucepan, combine water, 2 tablespoons oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low. Slowly add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking constantly. The mixture will start to become thick. Continue to whisk and add 1/4 cup of water at a time if necessary to prevent sticking. After a few minutes, test polenta for doneness. The grain should be soft. Cool a spoonful and taste it. When done remove from heat immediately.. Coarse polenta may need longer to cook.
4. When polenta is cooked, immediately pour it into the prepared pan lined with parchment and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Set aside to cool until the polenta is somewhat solid. Heat oven to 400°.
5. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet. When tomato sauce is ready and polenta has cooled, invert baking sheet over the polenta pan and flip it over so that the parchment paper is on top and you can peel it off.
6. Remove sausages from tomato sauce and slice into 1/2″ thick rounds.
7. Top polenta with some of the tomato sauce, spreading sauce to 1/2″ from edges of polenta. (Continue to simmer remaining sauce covered for another 15 minutes or until ready to serve.) Arrange sausage and cheese on top. Bake until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm with more tomato sauce, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh ground pepper.
Servings: 4 – 762 calories per serving