Polenta can be the Italian equivalent of mashed potatoes, a great comfort food, especially for cold winter nights. This required two pots and the oven and took in total about an hour, mostly waiting for it to complete cooking in the oven. It is thus suitable for a weeknight dinner. This version is an adaptation of a recipe in Cook’s Country’s Big Flavors from Italian America and serves 4 people. The original recipe called for instant polenta, which I could not find. Instead I used Bob’s Red Mill “Yellow Corn Grits (also known as Polenta)” which only took about 10 minutes to be fully cooked, which was faster than I expected.
Carol thought the Cook’s recipe was very tasty but a bit too salty, so I have cut back on the salt by not adding any to the vegetables.
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for greasing the pan
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, halved and thinly sliced
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp. black pepper, divided
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1.5 cups whole milk
1.5 cups water
¾ tsp. salt
¾ cup polenta or corn grits
2 oz. Parmesan cheese (1 cup grated)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 Tbs. fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
In an ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the vegetables and ¼ tsp. black pepper until softened and browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the cooked vegetables in a bowl.
While the vegetables are cooking, heat the milk, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir in the polenta, return to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is cooked. This took about 10 minutes with Bob’s Red Mill corn grits. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the unsalted butter
Add a little olive oil to the ovenproof skillet and swirl it around to cover the bottom and sides. Add the cooked polenta to the skillet and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Put the cooked vegetables on top of the polenta, and spread the sausages on top of the vegetables.
Bake in the oven until the sausages are browned and cooked through (internal temperature 160 degrees). Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley before serving.