I'd like to begin by thanking Cooking Light...this recipe made my Friday night. And how fun is it to say the title: Peppery Parmesan Polenta with Spicy Sausage Sauce. ( I added the 'Peppery' part just to make it even.) I was outside taking a picture of the plate of food, sneaking a quick bite, and literally raised my eyes and spoke out loud saying "Ohhh my. This is delicious!". It was just me and the front porch out there at the time, but I needed to announce it to someone or in this case, something: the unassuming front porch window.
After all this house de-cluttering, I actually have time to take a few minutes each night to sit down and look at current magazines. This was sort of unheard of in my past life. I usually let them pile up for months (or sometimes years) and then get overwhelmed, and don't take true time to look through them. But this month I did...and it is super.
Polenta is one of those recipes that I always forget about, which is unfortunate because it is so quick to make and so versatile. I assisted a cooking class a few months ago, and she made sweet polenta with milk and dried cranberries and orange zest. At The Dinette, a cute little Euro-bistro in town, they make it more like grits drizzled with olive oil, where you spoon it onto your plate. You can also add fresh herbs and different cheeses and put it into a pan and bake it, and serve in slices. This recipe is more in the middle, and well worth every minute of the preparation. And the good news is that it doesn't take very long to make.
I have a few notes about this recipe. You can absolutely make it vegetarian by using veggie sausage, or tofu, or just eliminate the sausage altogether and add vegetables or beans. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and you have a veg meal. I cut the original recipe in half and only changed a few components. It originally called for fresh oregano, but I didn't want to buy a whole container, so I used dried. So if you use fresh, use about 1 1/2 tsp. Keep the basil fresh versus dried if you can. It really transforms the sauce right at the end. Polenta is essentially just cornmeal. So if you have cornmeal on hand, (like I do), you can simply use that. Or if you want to follow the original recipe, use quick-cooking polenta. I added sauteed asparagus on the side for extra vegetables and color. But any vegetable or side will do.
Peppery Parmesan Polenta with Spicy Sausage Sauce
From Cooking Light May 2011
Yields 2 servings
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 chicken sausage link (any flavor), sliced in diagonal coin shapes
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp oregano, dried
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can of no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped and divided in half
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
6 Tbsp corn meal (or quick-cooking polenta)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese + more for topping
Pepper to taste
Heat a medium sized saute pan over medium/ high heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat. Add sausage and cook until browned on both sides. Turn heat down to medium, and add onion. Saute until onion is lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
Add oregano, crushed red pepper and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally. Add half of the basil to pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Meanwhile, combine the broth and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add cornmeal (polenta), reduce heat to low and continually stir with a whisk for 5 minutes, until it becomes smooth and creamy. Stir in the 1/4 cup of cheese and a sprinkling of pepper.
Pour the polenta onto each plate or bowl. Top with the sauce, remaining basil and extra parmesan. Savor every spicy bite.