Fleur de Lis

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Italian Polenta Casserole

Polenta is (in my mind at least) Italy's version of grits. It is, very simply, finely ground cornmeal cooked in water or broth. It soaks up any wonderful combination of flavors you throw its way. 

Let's start with the polenta recipe portion of the recipe first:
2 cups yellow cornmeal
6 cups water or chicken broth
1 t. salt
2 T. butter

Bring the water/broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. Add the cornmeal and quickly whisk to blend it well and turn heat to medium.  At this point, the polenta will be very loose and would drip right off the spoon. Keep stirring because it can and will stick. As the water is absorbed, the polenta will begin to thicken. This process will take 20 - 25 minutes. When you can pull the spoon or spatula across the bottom and leave a path without the polenta filling it back in, you're done! Remove from heat.

Now for the remainder of the recipe:

Add ins for the polenta:
6 oz. cream cheese cubed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
1/2 cup finely shredded or gated Parmesan cheese (divided)

Stir in cream cheese, 3/4 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan until well mixed. Spread two thirds of the polenta/cheese mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Now for the sauce:

12 oz. bulk sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups prepared pasta sauce

In a large skillet, cook sausage, mushrooms, onion and garlic until meat is browned and onion is tender, stirring to break up meat; drain off fat.

Add pasta sauce; heat through. Spoon sausage mixture over polenta in baking dish, spreading evenly. Spoon remaining polenta on top of sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Bake uncovered about 20 minutes until heated through and top is lightly golden.

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