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It’s not even two weeks into 2014, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Since I’m still writing “2010″ on all my checks, I suppose I should just get used to the fact that it is actually 4 years later. I mean, it’s not like pregnancy brain has shot my memory to hell already, or anything.
I’ve made a ridiculous amount of freezer ready food lately, and this Italian-style Polenta Bake was thoroughly supposed to be part of that Freezer Crowd. But it was so warm and creamy and flavorful that it never actually got stored away. Which means that, hopefully, I’ll have some time to make another batch before my stubborn baby finally decides to make his (her?) way into the world.
Wasn’t it just last week I was all worked up about not being ready to have this baby yet? Lo, how the tides have changed. Now I’m not only ready, but seriously impatient. Then again, it’s not like anyone could accuse me of being a woman who does a great job overall at waiting. I’m pretty good at waiting for cakes to rise and meringue to set. I’m not good at waiting for hot pizza to cool before I try to eat it, for waiting for my husband to return my calls when I have a burning question to ask (important questions like, “Can you bring home milk?”), or for another season of Orange is the New Black to start. Then again, no sane person ever successfully waited for hot pizza to cool off before digging in, so I’m sure you’ll let me off the hook on that one.
This Polenta Bake is sorta casserole-y, sorta lasagna-y, and 100% big on flavor. You can up the spicy heat factor if you wish, and add as much cheese to the polenta as your little heart desires. The parmesan crust makes a great topping, but even more cheese stirred into that polenta could never be a bad idea.
Just make sure you’ve let it cool a bit before digging in – you trust me on that one.
Italian Polenta Bake Recipe
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup ground polenta cornmeal
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups tap water
- 1 cup chicken
For the casserole layer
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 onion,minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 cup tap water
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Make the polenta
- Melt the butter over medium heat and add the polenta. Stir to lightly coat, then add the heavy cream, water and chicken stock. Cook, stirring often, until the polenta is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before use.
Make the casserole layer
- Preheat the oven to 350*F. Pour half of the polenta into the bottom of a heavily greased 8”x8” baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Cook the ground pork over medium heat, crumbling it well as it browns. Once the pork is mostly browned, add the onions and cook until they have softened. Add the garlic, ginger, fennel, cumin, pepper and sea salt and cook until the garlic has softened and is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to dish, and add the tomato, green pepper and water. Deglaze the pan, scraping up as much of the brown bits off the bottom as you can, and lightly cooking the tomatoes and pepper in the process. When most of the water has cooked off, remove the tomatoes and pepper and set aside.
- Layer the sausage mixture on top of the baked polenta in the baking dish. Add the tomatoes and peppers on top in an even layer, and pour the rest of the polenta on top, smoothing it out as much as possible. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and place back in the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes, until the cheese has browned and the edges of the pan have crisped. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.