Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Baked Polenta with Sausage and Tomato-Pepper Sauce

Not the prettiest photograph, but I have discovered that is the norm with comfort food!

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about this dish, all the way up until I sat down at the dinner table and had my first bite. And then, WOW, it was delicious! The spicy tomato sauce with the sausage and peppers combined with the melted cheese and slices of polenta really came together to make a great, comforting meal.

Polenta is a bit of a discussion point in our house, so I was also trying to sneak this into the dish without Chuck knowing. In efforts to vary the starches with dinner in the past I have made the more traditional creamy polenta, with regular cornmeal that you cook slowly and mix with cheese, butter, and milk, among other things. Chuck didn't like the texture, so now that is relegated to when I make dinner for myself or for a dinner party when he won't complain anyway. ;)

But he ended up really liking the way this polenta was prepared. For those of you who don't know, the type this recipe calls for looks like this:

and can be found in or near the refrigerated gourmet cheese case near the deli section of your supermarket. It is a little on the expensive side which may lead to me figuring out how to prepare this on my own in the future.

Since I wasn't sure whether we would like this enough to freeze the leftovers, I halved the entire recipe and was able to make it in an 8x8 (or 9x9) square Pyrex baking dish. WARNING: Pyrex and Corningware are NOT safe for under the broiler - the heat is too high and you risk cracking the dish. But I had nothing else this size; so I moved it further away from the broiler and baked it with a cookie sheet under it in case it broke and held my breath pretty much the whole time it was in there! It didn't break (this time) but I would highly recommend using stoneware or a ceramic dish instead if you have it. Enjoy!

Baked Polenta with Sausage and Tomato-Pepper Sauce
from MyRecipes.com
Makes 6 servings

5 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 medium yellow onion, halved lengthwise, then cut into thin wedges
1 medium yellow, red, or orange bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon each salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes
1 pound bulk Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, casings removed (I would suggest omitting the red pepper flakes if you use the spicy sausage)
2 tubes (16 ounces each) prepared polenta, sliced into 1/2-in.-thick rounds
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, drained and sliced into 1/4-in.-thick rounds

Preheat broiler to high. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan set over medium heat, then add tomatoes and oregano and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Cover pan, lower heat to medium, and cook until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add sausage, stirring and breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it firms up, about 5 minutes.

Cover pan and cook until vegetables are tender and sausage is cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes more. Add tomato sauce and simmer 10 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, pour remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil into a 9- by 13-in. baking pan and tilt to coat bottom. Add polenta slices to pan and turn to coat with oil, then arrange slices lengthwise in 3 slightly overlapping rows.

I could only find polenta with sundried tomatoes in it; hence those unidentified red pieces.

Broil polenta about 4 inches from heating element until golden brown and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour sauce over broiled polenta, then arrange mozzarella slices over the top.

Broil until cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.


Anonymous said...

Oooh, this looks yummy! My guy doesn't like polenta much, either, but I bet he'd never know it if he tried it like this. I may have to make it this weekend!

Mollie said...

Looks yummy! We need to eat more polenta. I also think that in place of the pre-made, you can make your polenta in a pan and cut it into whatever shape, but I couldn't begin to tell you exactly how! lol. Looks great tho.

Deborah said...

I didn't even realize Pyrex isn't safe for the broiler - I guess I've been lucky! This looks like pure comfort - delicious!

amycaseycooks said...

What a great dish for the cooler fall weather. I have not cooked with polenta very much, but have been meaning to try a few recipes.

Anonymous said...

What a GREAT idea to use up polenta! This looks GREAT! Especially now that it'sgetting cold out! :)

Natalie Que said...

Glad it turned out so well! I think it sounds and looks great.

Thanks so much for your nice, NICE words on my blog. That was sweet of you.

Okay, I'm going back up to yours for a second helping!