Quick Creamy Polenta with Meat Sauce

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.

shopping

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

INGREDIENTS

• 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
DIRECTIONS
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.)
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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.
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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.
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8. Divide the polenta among 3-4 bowls and top with the meat sauce. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan.
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