We’ve lived in the South for the entirety of our marriage (15 years), and we’re still not “grits people”. We’ll eat shrimp and grits, but only if the grits are so thick, creamy and cheesy that we’d be out of our minds not to. Grits for breakfast just isn’t our thing.
I do like polenta, however. Polenta, I guess, could be considered an Italian version of grits. It’s heartier though, in my Yankee opinion, and usually used in more savory dishes, as a pasta alternative for rich sauces or it can be cooled, sliced up and pan-fried, grilled or baked.
So, imagine my daughter’s dismay when she walked in the kitchen and saw this bag sitting on the counter as I was making dinner…
“They aren’t grits. It’s polenta. You’ll love it. It’s creamy, and cheesy and it has a sauce over it that you’ll love. Plus, you’re Italian. Your Italian-ness will push through and you’ll love polenta.”
“It says “grits” on the bag.”
“It also says “polenta.”
“I can’t eat it. That’s disgusting. Ugh…ugh…ugh…blech…blech…blech.” ~stomps out of room~
Did that sway me? No way. I pushed on.
Before I started cooking my polenta, I put together a quick, but hearty, sauce on the stove. I sautéed some Italian spiced chicken sausage that I’d sliced up, then added in some onions and garlic.
In went two cans of diced tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, and about 1/4 cup of red wine…because it was just sitting there by the stove and I figured it couldn’t hurt. Before serving the sauce, I’d add in a bit of chopped fresh basil, but for now it just needed to simmer.
While the sauce simmered and the flavors came together, I got the polenta going. I brought some chicken broth and water to a boil on the stove, and then stirred in my polenta.
I let the polenta simmer for a bit, stirring every couple of minutes until it was thick enough to support the sauce. Watch out, because this stuff pops when it simmers and flying hot polenta is akin to molten lava.
Once it was creamy and quite thick, I stirred in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and we were ready to go. **How quickly your polenta cooks depends on how hot your stove is running and how much liquid you’re using. If, time wise, you’re not ready to eat when your polenta looks thick enough, just add a little more water or broth to the pot and give it a little more time to soak it up.
You know what? SHE LOVED IT, and so did Aaron and I. (Avery? Not so much, but we’ve already determined that she’s always a dinner wild-card. There was nothing in this that she shouldn’t have liked. I think she was just being stubborn. She did admit to liking the sausage, though.)
The sauce was hearty and delicious, but not too heavy for the creamy, zesty polenta. It was the perfect dinner for a rainy, fall afternoon. Emily even went up for seconds!
Adapted from Cooking Light: Weeknight One-Dish Meals
- For the sauce:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 links of sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, sliced
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or less, if you don’t like as much of a kick)
- 2 (14.5 oz.) cans no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped, divided
- For the polenta:
- 2 cups fat-free chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and saute until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes. Add the onion to the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add the oregano, red pepper flakes, tomatoes and red wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the basil to the sauce and simmer for a few more minutes, until the sauce thickens up just a bit.
- Combine the broth and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add the polenta and stir in with a whisk. Reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer until thick, stirring occasionally with the whisk, about 10-15 minutes. (If too thick, too quick, add a little more liquid)
- Once the polenta is thick, stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
- Spoon the polenta into bowls and ladle the sauce over the top. Top with more shredded parmesan and fresh basil.