If you’ve never had polenta, it starts out life as ground, dried corn. Similar (if not identical) to grits or cornmeal. You can buy it in a box, but most grocery stores sell it in pre-made tubes (sounds weird, but it’s a time saver) containing cornmeal, water, salt, a few vitamins. So they have precooked the polenta for you and all you have to do is reconstitute it with some liquid.
This recipe was taken from a more complicated one on food network.com, steps simplified and calories reduced (in my opinion resulting in healthier ez-er yummier). It can go from fridge to table in 15 minutes and it does not take any particular kitchen skills. It’s better if you have a food processor, but you don’t have to have one. Hubby LOVED this so it is going into the regular rotation.
Makes 3-4 servings
• 1/2 cups whole milk or fat-free half and half
• 1/2 cup water
• kosher salt
• cracked black pepper
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3/4 pound Italian turkey sausage, hot or mild, casings removed
• 1/2 yellow onion
• 1/2 cup baby carrots
• 2 -3 cloves garlic
• 1 lb precooked polenta in a tube
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded, plus more for serving
• pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
• 1 1/4 cup any meatless pasta sauce
1. Cut the onion into wedges and add the onion, carrots and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (Or finely chop with sharp knife.)
2. With a sharp knife, slit the polenta tube lengthwise and dump the polenta out into a medium-sized sauce pan, discarding the wrapper. Add the water to the pan. With the back of a large wooden spoon, break up the polenta into the smallest chunks possible. Stir in about 1/4 tsp salt and bring just to a boil over medium heat.
3. While polenta cooks, place a large skillet over medium-high heat. With a sharp knife, slit the sausages lengthwise and remove the meat from the casing, discarding casing.
4. When skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl the pan to coat. Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil, the vegetables, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of cracked black pepper to the pan with the sausage and cook until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 3 more minutes.
5. When the polenta/water mixture reaches a strong simmer, mash/stir briskly with the spoon to get most of the lumps out. Lower the heat to medium-low. Stir in the milk/half and half, mixing completely. Cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thickened and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
6. When the vegetables in the pan are softened, stir the pasta sauce in with the meat and vegetables. Optional: add 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely tender and sauce is heated through, 5 to 6 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and red pepper flakes if desired.
7. While the meat sauce cooks, stir the butter and 1/2 cup cheese into the polenta and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat and cover while meat sauce finishes cooking.
8. Divide the polenta among 3-4 bowls and top with the meat sauce. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan.