Probably the most nostalgic winter meal I can think of would be polenta. In this dish, I’ve cut back on time by using instant polenta and paired it with Sweet Italian Sausage, made incredibly tender by simmering in sauce for just about an hour.
Polenta is just very fine cornmeal, and when cooked it thickens to create this thick, comforting porridge. Though it can be prepared many ways – baked into squares, fried, my personal favorite is to prepare it in this porridge consistency, mixed with freshly grated cheese and butter.
Polenta with Italian Sausage
- 1 32 oz jar of Passata, or 1 28 oz can tomato puree with no salt or other seasoning added
- 14-16 oz water
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- Red Pepper flakes to taste
- 1 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup Instant Polenta
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter, chopped into large chunks
- Basil leaves, torn for garnish
For the Sauce:
For the Polenta:
- Heat a large heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and allow to heat for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, sear the sausage on each side until the meat browns and releases easily (perhaps with a gentle nudge) from the pot, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
- Add your passata or tomato puree, then rinse out the jar or can by filling it halfway with tap water. Add the water to the sauce and stir to combine. To the sauce, add all the seasonings – salt, oregano, parsley, and basil. Stir to combine. Allow sauce to come to a vigorous boil.
- Once the sauce has reached a boil, reduce the heat to a low flame, and add back in the sausage. Stir gently so that all of the meat has been covered with sauce, cover the pot, and simmer on low for 45 minutes – 1 hour. The meat will be cooked through after a half hour, but will continue to tenderize in the sauce the longer you cook it.
- After about 45 minutes, begin to prepare the polenta. In a medium heavy bottomed pot, bring 4 cups of water and the salt to a boil. Slowly add in the polenta and stir vigorously to combine with a whisk, so that the polenta doesn’t clump together. The polenta will be ready when it has thickened significantly and begins to come away from the edges, about 4-5 minutes.
- Remove the polenta from the heat and add in parmesan cheese and butter. Stir together using a wooden spoon until cheese and butter has melted.
- Plate polenta, and spoon a bit of sauce on top. Top with sausage. Garnish with torn basil leaves and serve immediately.