Polenta with sausage is a dish that I grew up eating...and hated. I don't know why, really. Perhaps it was the oatmeal-y texture, a texture I don't really love. But then, as I got older, something changed. I now love polenta, and it's because it was served so often in my childhood that I associate it with comfort food. I love it's creamy earthiness especially when it is enhanced with good-quality butter and salty-sharp parmigiano reggiano.
As we head into fall, I decided to make polenta for dinner this week. Here in San Francisco, it's actually been cold and foggy enough in the evenings to enjoy it. My mom always served it with sweet Italian fennel sausages cooked in a tomato sauce. The polenta would go onto the plate with sausages alongside and sauce and cheese on the top.
When you make polenta you can use imported Italian polenta—either the quick-cooking kind (if you don't want to be chained to the stove for 30 minutes) or the regular kind—or you can simply use yellow corn grits. Prepare according to package directions but be sure to add a couple of pats of unsalted butter and a good handful or two of grated parmigiano reggiano to it at the end of cooking.
At the same time, you can fry up the sausages and when they are almost cooked add in 2 cups of tomato sauce (a simple marinara). I make my own but if you have to use store-bought I like Pomì brand Marinara (it comes in a box). Simmer sausages in sauce for about 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
Spoon polenta onto a plate or into a bowl and spoon a little tomato sauce over it. Top with cheese and fresh ground pepper. Serve sausages alongside. Dig in.
I now serve my children polenta and sausage. My four-year-old eats the polenta and my two-year-old eats the sausage. It works out.
[photo credit: Stefania Pomponi Butler, bowl from Deruta, Italy]