“Botched” Cornmeal Casserole

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“Botched” Cornmeal CasseroleI love polenta. The simplicity of smooth, creamy, golden cornmeal is an awesome foil for a typical topping like a Bolognese sauce, sautéed greens, or roasted meats. But, it’s often fun to get funky with polenta and really mess it up. Why take something perfect as it is and cook up a recipe that literally botches it? Because sausage and cheese. That’s why.

  • Yield: 6 to 8 Servings
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes


  • 3 cups water
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 lb pork sausage, raw, casings removed
  • 8 oz Fontina cheese, sliced
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
How to Make It
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium pot on the stove, bring water, milk, and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce the heat and maintain a simmer. Slowly whisk the polenta into the liquid in a steady stream, being sure to whisk quickly to avoid any polenta lumps. Continue to whisk until the polenta begins to thicken, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat, and using a spoon instead of a whisk, continue to stir the polenta until it is very thick, like thick porridge, about an additional 5-6 minutes. Stir in and incorporate 1 tablespoon of butter and ½ cup of Parmesan.
  3. Using 1 tablespoon of butter, grease the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Pour half of the polenta into the baking dish and set aside to cool.
  4. Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the butter has melted, add onion and ½ teaspoon of salt, and sauté until the onion is soft, about 4-6 minutes. Add sausage, breaking it into small pieces and continue to sauté until the sausage is browned, about 4-6 more minutes.
  5. Gently distribute the sausage mixture atop the polenta layer in the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan. Place slices of Fontina cheese atop the sausage. On top of the cheese, scoop and smooth the remaining polenta in a single layer.
  6. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the polenta at the top begins to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and allow the casserole to cool for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve slices of the “botched polenta” along with something saucy.

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