This is a dish that Boris and I whipped up the other night, and I must say that for such a simple and quick preparation, it is REALLY good. I found this recipe in Whole Foods Market’s Spring Magazine, a copy of which my wife and I received upon attending last week’s “Share Our Strength’s” – “Taste of The Nation” fund raising event in Boston.
A quick word about Share Our Strength. They are a national organization that raises money through their pioneering culinary events (Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation, Great American Dine Out, A Tasteful Pursuit and Great American Bake Sale) and award grants to support successful organizations across the country that work to provide children and their families with the healthy food they need. Since their inception in 1984, they have raised over $265 million and provided support to more than 1,000 of the most effective hunger-relief organizations around the globe. They also provide on-the-ground cooking and nutritional training to at-risk families through their “Operation Front Line” program, and I will be starting work with them shortly as a volunteer chef instructor for some of their Boston based classes. I’m very excited to be getting involved with such a terrific organization, and I’ll certainly be sharing more about my work with them in later posts.
But for now, let’s get back to this polenta dish.
Boris made much of this dish himself, from de-casing the sausages and cooking them, to quickly wilting the spinach in the pan with some onion. I busied myself by breaking down the cooked polenta tube, which to be honest was a first for me, as I have never used cooked polenta before. I admit that I was a little hesitant at first, not sure whether I would like the flavor or texture of the stuff, but I’m pleased to say that as long as you take a few minutes to work it well between your hands to break up any lumps, the texture is fine, and the taste quite good. Assembly is fast, cooking takes just 30 minutes, and any leftovers re-heat beautifully in the microwave (a big benefit of using polenta over pasta, which to me gets all funky when micro-waved).
We had some of our Anise-Vanilla-Basil Marinara in the freezer, and decided to use that rather than buy bottled. Because of the sweetness of the sauce, I chose to buy chicken-apple sausage, and they were a perfect complement. Alternatively, a more traditional marinara would be delicious with an “Italian” chicken sausage. Enjoy!
- 2 - 18 ounce tubes of pre-cooked polenta
- 1 medium sized yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound baby spinach
- 2 pounds chicken sausage (use any flavor that you like, we used "apple")
- 3 cups marinara sauce (we used Anise-Vanilla Marinara and it was delicious with the chicken-apple sausage)
- 12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 ℉, and grease a 9"x13" baking dish with butter.
- Open cooked polenta, and working with your hands break it up and press it into an even layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Work it well with your fingers to eliminate any lumps and ensure a nice even texture. Season this layer with a little kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, and cook the onion about 3-4 minutes until just starting to take color. Add the spinach, and season with a little salt and pepper, cook until wilted and spread evenly over the polenta.
- Remove sausage meat from casings. Add a little more oil to the pan, and over medium-high heat, cook the de-cased sausage meat until nicely browned on all sides, breaking the meat up into small pieces as you go. When just cooked through, add the marinara to the pan with the chicken and stir well to incorporate. Spread the chicken mix over the spinach, top with the shredded mozzarella and bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is light brown and bubbly. Serve immediately with a nice side salad, and some rustic bread.