Time Change Supper: Baked Polenta with Sauce
Sometimes you need a simple, comforting supper that's low stress and mess. Like when you lose an hour from the clock, which happens this Sunday! Enter one of my favorite recipes: Baked Polenta with Sauce. It's easy and economical but good enough to serve guests. You'll need to cook the polenta on the stove first, and it's best if you do so ahead. You can even make the polenta a day or so before, if you'd like. Nonetheless, I've whipped up the polenta just before I've baked it. It will be fine, albeit a bit less firm. The sauce is simple to pull together while the polenta bakes. You can spoon the sauce onto the polenta after you pull it from the oven and then sprinkle a little mozzarella and Parmesan cheese over the sauce. The heat from the sauce will melt the cheese, and you'll have creamy polenta on the bottom, savory sauce as the middle layer, and ooey-gooey cheese on top of your comfort creation. Serve the Baked Polenta with a green salad and a vegetable or bread, and you'll have happy tummies all around.
Baked Polenta with Sauce -- Serves 6-8
4 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Coat an 8- or 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly as you do so, into the boiling water. Turn down the heat to medium low and continue whisking the mixture a few minutes. Partially cover the pot and let the polenta cook for 15-20 minutes, whisking it periodically, until it's very thick. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until it's fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the polenta out evenly. Set it aside to cool and firm up, preferably for at least 20 minutes. When you're almost ready to bake the polenta, heat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
16 ounces of Sweet Italian turkey sausages, casings removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 28-ounce can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
While the polenta firms up, heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the skillet and oil are hot, crumble in the turkey sausage. Add the onion and saute the sausage and onion for about 10 minutes until the sausage is cooked and the onion has softened. Add the tomato puree/crushed tomatoes, the diced tomatoes, Italian herbs, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine everything. Turn down the heat to medium low and let the sauce simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring it periodically. While the sauce is simmering, cut the polenta into 6-8 squares and, using a large spatula, transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the polenta for about 20 minutes or until firm on the top and just beginning to brown a bit on the edges. Remove the polenta from the oven and carefully transfer the squares to serving bowls or plates. Spoon some of the sauce over each serving of the hot polenta and then sprinkle each serving with some of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Ummm!