polenta bake with sausage and kale

I believe sausage and kale is one of the best combinations out there. It's like peanut butter and chocolate as far as I'm concerned.

That being said, the combination is rather definitely indicative of Fall and Winter dining. I'm not sure how you make this combo into a summer meal ... so perhaps we should all just enjoy it while the weather screams cozy.

While I did eat leftovers of this dish for several days, I don't think polenta is really meant for a Wednesday lunch. It is meant to be consumed relatively hot out of the oven and perhaps while wearing comfy sweatpants and an oversized hoodie sweatshirt. My brother / family gave me a big ole bright blue sweatshirt from my high school for Valentines Day this year. I pretty much haven't taken it off. While not everyone can wear this outfit, everyone can enjoy this meal.

If you have any picky eaters, just tell them the polenta is mashed potatoes. I mean, that's what I plan on doing when I inevitably make this during a visit home to the burbs.

Here's how it goes.

(Step 1) Start the polenta. Bring about 6 c. water with 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slowly pour in the cornmeal while whisking. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is cooked and the consistency is firm but spreadable, 25-30 minutes. If the pan ever seems too dry, add a little more water and quickly stir to incorporate. When the polenta is where you want it to be, remove from heat, still in the grated Parmesan. Taste. Season, if necessary.

(Step 2) Preheat the oven to 400°. Brown the sausage in a large ovenproof skillet, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces as you go, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, season with a pinch of salt, and cook until the onions have wilted down, about 5 minutes. 
(Step 3) Add the kale in a couple of batches, tossing until it has shrunk down, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, season, and simmer briefly until the flavors have come together, 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, and remove from heat.
(Step 4) Arrange the sautéed sausage and kale in an even layer in a baking dish. 
(Step 5) Spread the polenta over the mixture and sprinkle the grated mozzarella over the top. 
 (Step 6) Bake until the cheese has melted and the polenta is crispy at the edges, 20-25 minutes.

Shopping List
1 ½ c. Polenta
½ c. grated Parmesan Cheese
12 oz. Italian Sausage, casings removed if using links
1 Onion, sliced
3 cloves Garlic, sliced
pinch or 2 Red Pepper Flakes
1 large bunch Lacinato Kale
1 14.5 oz. can Italian Plum Tomatoes, crushed
1 c. grated Melty Style Cheese (I went with Mozzarella)

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