Sausage and Red Bell Pepper Polenta Cassesrole


Polenta always reminds me of my Croatian grandfather because he ate it all the time – topped with rabbit stew or something else of old-country ilk. I wonder if he would’ve liked this sausage and red bell pepper casserole?

I was very disappointed when I pulled out my package of Bob’s Red Mill yellow polenta to make this dish, because I assumed it was going to be Non-GMO-Project verified – and it wasn’t. There’s an important lesson – don’t automatically assume that something will be non-GMO or organic or generally healthy based off of its brand name or marketing scheme – do your research! I do see by looking online that Bob’s Red Mill does offer an organic variety of polenta, as well, so that should be non-GMO. Also, by doing a search in the Non-GMO Project’s list of verified products (such a helpful tool!) I see that Whole Food’s 365 brand of yellow polenta is Non-GMO-Project verified. It would be good to buy a Non-GMO-Project verified brand if you’re in the U.S. like me, since conventional corn here is so creepily packed full of the stuff. ~Sigh.~ I hope in my lifetime GMOs are banned here.

I should tweet-tweet at The Silver Palate and ask it if I can be its spokesperson, because I am forever promoting its tomato sauce! I just love it and its real, no-bull ingredients and its absence of refined sugar. I was just at the health food store near me the other day, Better Health, checking out their selection of organic sauces, and picking up one and seeing processed sugar in it – my pet peeve! Just because something is organic doesn’t mean it doesn’t have refined sugar in it – a lot of organic stuff does. I am sure there are a number of organic tomato sauces out there that don’t have processed sugar added to them, but I haven’t been able to find one in my price point, so I’m sticking with The Silver Palate, which is admittedly non-organic. I used the Fra Diavolo Arribiata pasta sauce here. It’s hot and spicy – just like I like it.

Enough soap-boxing for now – I’ve got to jet outdoors and enjoy this gorgeous Memorial-Day-weekend weather. Here’s the recipe!

-2 cups dry polenta

-6 cups water

-3 tbs. unsalted butter, melted

-1 tsp. salt

-1/4 tsp. pepper

-1/4 tsp. oregano

-1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

-1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage

-1 red bell pepper, julienned into thin slices

-1 tbs. minced garlic

-1/4 cup pinenuts

-1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

-1 can of your favorite spicy tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare polenta according to package instructions. I included in this recipe everything I added to the polenta per the package’s instructions – obviously water, but also the butter and salt, because I thought those lent a good flavor to the polenta and should be included if they weren’t indicated by the brand you are using. The salt was added into the water with the polenta, and when it was done cooking, I mixed in the melted butter as well as my own additions: pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

While the polenta is cooking, cut the Italian sausage into manageable-sized links if it isn’t already, add it to a frying pan with a tablespoon of the grapeseed oil, and fry it over medium-high heat, turning frequently so it cooks evenly, for about 10-12 minutes, until it’s well-browned and looking fully cooked. Remove from heat, let cool, and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Add the bell pepper slices, minced garlic, and two teaspoons of the grapeseed oil to a medium-sized pan over medium heat and cook for about three minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan with the pinenuts and let toast; this should only take about a minute. Watch carefully and stir almost constantly to keep them from burning. When pinenuts are lightly toasted, remove mixture immediately from the pan to a bowl and set aside.

Once everything is ready, layer a 9×13-inch baking dish with half of the polenta; then the sausage; then the pepper, garlic, and pinenut mixture; and finally the remaining polenta. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes. Cut into squares and top with generous helpings of tomato sauce. Makes about eight servings.

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