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Fontina on plate


Polenta with sausage-tomato sauce topped with melty fontina cheese.

The Sauce: Sausage-Tomato Sauce – Diced tomatoes and ground sausage seasoned and simmered with garlic, rosemary and oregano.

‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’ 

Oliver’s gruel not homemade polenta

Is it worth the waiting for
Till we reach eighty-four?
All we ever get is gruel.
Everyday we say a prayer
Will they change the bill of fare?
Still we get the same old gruel.

Homemade polenta isn’t in the same solar system as Oliver’s gruel from the 1968 hit musical “Oliver”. But polenta has much the same texture as porridge, mush and grits. These may conjure memories of dishes you’ve resisted tasting. Wait no longer. Polenta in this Italian-inspired dish has gourmet appeal and texture. The right yin yang balance of one part polenta grits to almost five parts liquid stands up in the sausage-tomato sauce.

Rather than bake, fry or grill thick polenta, heat it in this sausage tomato sauce doused with shredded cheese. Fontina Polentina garnished with parsleyhas sharp, nutty flavor and when exposed to heat, melts into a creamy layer of stretchy cheese.

I’ve been making versions of this dish for months; more sauce, thicker polenta, fresh versus dried herbs, with or without sausage. The final dish is comfort food that tastes gourmet. Polentina, a savory marriage of polenta and fontina cheese.

You might also enjoy Garlic and Thyme Polenta, Creamy Garlic Polenta, Bramwell Spaghetti Sauce, Italian Spaghetti Ragu and Chili Cheese Dogs.

2012 AniversaRecipe – Beef with Oyster Sauce
2011 AniversaRecipe – Chocolate Syrup

Recipe: Polentina

Prep Time: 10 Min | Inactive Time: 15 Min | Cook Time: 50 Min | Yield: 4 Servings | Level: Moderate

Fontina Cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 3/4 cup polenta grits
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Sausage-Tomato Sauce

  • 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • salt
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese, 4 oz
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Special Equipment – large skillet, 5×9 or 6×8 container

1 Combine milk, half & half, chicken stock, fresh thyme and 1 clove smashed garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then turn heat off, cover and steep for 30 minutes.

Polenta in container2 Strain milk mixture, then place back in the saucepan. Add polenta grits and whisk while bringing the milk mixture back to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes whisking often.

3 Add cheese, butter, salt and pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a rectangular container about 5×9 or 6×8 inches. Leave on counter to set up.

Tomatoes & Sausage Sausage-Tomato Sauce
4 Meanwhile brown sausage on medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic, rosemary, oregano and cook for 30 seconds.

5 Add diced tomatoes, water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Sprinkle Cheese on Polenta6 Cut the polenta in 8 squares and evenly lay in the tomato mixture. Sprinkle polenta with fontina. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes to heat polenta and melt cheese. Dust with parsley and serve.

Polenta can be made with cornmeal rather polenta grits but it has a smoother texture.

Substitute an open bowl or small saucepan or frying pan for the 5×9 or 6×8 container. Then scoop out 8 equal portions of cooled polenta into the sausage tomato sauce.

Substitute 1 24-ounce tube of pre-cooked polenta sliced into 8 rounds for homemade polenta.

Use 2 fat links of sausage squeezed out of the tubes. Buy sausage when on sale and freeze in individual snack baggies, then in a large freezer zipper bag. Defrost 2 for this dish.

Serve this rustic dish with a fresh green side salad.

When making polenta, double the recipe and save half in the fridge for Polentina later in the week.

Dish Designer

  • Exchange fresh thyme for 1 teaspoon dried thyme.
  • Exchange polenta grits for yellow cornmeal.
  • Exchange hot for mild sausage.
  • Exchange fresh rosemary for 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary.
  • Exchange fresh oregano for 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano.
  • Exchange fontina for gruyere.

Inspiration – Helen Horton
Cook with Sauces
Written by
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: May 27, 2013

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One Response to Polentina

  1. Debbie May 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    Delicious! I liked the combination of the creamy polenta, flavorful sauce and salty cheese. This would be a comforting dish in the winter (it was tasty in May too).

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