Polenta Sausage Mozzarella Casserole

My father found this recipe in a recent Sunset Magazine and it sounded so good he just had to try it. He even made the polenta from scratch instead of using the store-bought prepared version which the original recipe called for. (How cool is that?) Polenta with an Italian sausage tomato sauce, topped with Mozzarella – of course it was great. You can substitute turkey sausage for the Italian sausage or even skip the sausage and use chopped zucchini instead for a vegetarian option. Here is our slightly-modified-from-the-original version.

Polenta Sausage Mozzarella Casserole Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 6 servings.

This recipe is for a "sweet" version of this casserole, meaning not spicy. For a picante version, use hot Italian sausage and use red pepper flakes instead of the fennel seeds.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (removed from casings)
  • 2 pounds of prepared polenta, 1/2-inch slices if using prepared polenta in a tube (can use one recipe of creamy polenta, leave out the cream cheese)
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

Method

1 Heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a large (2-3 qt) saucepan on medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sausage and sauté, stirring often, until the meat is browned. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and fennel seeds to the sauté pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the tomato, cover the pan, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 20 minutes.

2 While the sauce is cooking, coat the bottom of a 9x13-inch lasagna or gratin pan (a pan that can handle the heat of a broiler) with a 1 Tbsp oil. Add the cooked polenta (or slices) to the pan. Coat the top of the polenta with a little more olive oil. Broil the polenta about 4 inches from the heating element until golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.

3 Pour sauce over broiled polenta, then arrange mozzarella slices over the top and return the casserole to the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from a recipe in Sunset Magazine.

21 Comments

  1. jonathan

    Be still my beating heart. Love that polenta.

    I may gild the lily and find a way to get some Parmigiano Reggiano into this one…

  2. Claire

    Wikpedia says “Polentone” means “polenta eater” (literally “big polenta”) and is a derogatory term sometimes used by Southern Italians to refer to Northern Italians. While not Italian, you could call me Polentone anyday!!! I’d have polenta at my “last meal”! My mother made the Missouri version — made from scratch polenta poured into a glass loaf pan, cooled, then sliced, dipped in salt and peppered flour, fried in butter until crispy. Some ate it with maple syrup but I preferred salt, pepper and butter.

  3. Beth

    I make a version of this with Soyrizo, Mozz, soft polenta and Parm/Reggiano that never ever disappoints the carnivores, nobody misses meat when they have corn and cheese to contend with.

  4. Mary

    I made this with some wonderful Hot Chicken Italian Sausage produced by a local grocer. I used polenta from a tube, but mixed it (mashed it up) with some (about 1/3 cup) low fat ricotta I had in the fridge and needed to use up. It was wonderful!

  5. Jenn Searls

    This was dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious! I’ve got extra sausage and polenta so I’m going to freeze some for later.

  6. AmyL

    I just made this this evening and it was wonderful. Someone said comfort food, heck yeah. I wanted to eat the whole pan though. I also made my own polenta because I could not find prepared stuff.
    Thanks so much I loved this and it will go in our permanent rotation.

  7. Lisa

    This recipe is the BEST! It’s my husband’s favorite so far, and it’s great for leftovers! Does anyone know how many WW points one serving is?

  8. Spocko

    This recipe was fantastic! Thank You! I was just wondering if you would be able to post how to make the polenta from scratch to go with this recipe!

    Thanks Again!

  9. Sarah

    Finally made this last night – it has been on my list for ages – and it was fantastic! So easy to make and sooo good. Was just as good for lunch today! Great recipe as always Elise! Scored points with the husband!!!

  10. Nellie

    You know what, I made this from the magazine (thought it looked good, too), and I thought it was rather bland. It probably would have been substantially better if I had used fresh mozarella and homemade polenta, however, and had used crushed tomatoes instead of petite diced tomatoes (which is what I usually like). It still lacked a little something for me — polenta wasn’t my favorite form of starch.

  11. Rowan

    I made this for the second time tonight. And it was so delicious!

    My only caveat is to search out the pre-made tube of polenta. I’ve done it both way, and the pre-made saves a ton of time.

    Also, I substituted Gimme Lean veggie sausage. Oh, my goodness! It was scrumptious. I plan to add this recipe as a regular rotation to our family’s diet.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  12. Heather

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was a BIG hit. My husband loved it and said he could have eaten the whole thing in one sitting! (I forced him to stop so we could have some for leftovers tomorrow.)

    We particularly like the little kick the sauce gets by adding the red pepper flakes. I also used a spicy Italian sausage so it was really nice and “kicky.”

    I’ve been finding terrific recipes from here for quite a while now. Thanks for consistently sharing these amazing gifts with all of us!

  13. emilie

    Is it safe to broil in a glass pan? I’ve heard horror stories about exploding pyrex dishes.

    Here’s an interesting thread on broiling and pyrex at Metafilter. We broil casseroles all the time in our oven without a problem, but that’s probably because it’s a casserole, and the casserole is mediating the heat and because of the casserole there isn’t a big temperature differential throughout the pyrex. That said, if it is a concern, use a metal pan. ~Elise

  14. Jeanine

    I made this last night. It had a nice flavor, however I didn’t have any polenta, so I substituted some grits we had at hand–everything looked the same, but the grits didn’t seem to have the same cohesive properties of the polenta, so it ended up a little soupy. Everyone still liked it though!

  15. Shiraz

    Is there a substitute for broiling? My oven is missing the tray in the broiler, but I would like to try this recipe.

    You use the broiler to brown the polenta and the cheese in this recipe. If you just use the oven (cook at 400°F until casserole is heated through and cheese is melted), you won’t get the browning, but it will still be good. ~Elise

  16. Mike Hedges

    I decided on the pre-cooked polenta after I discovered what it took to make polenta from scratch. Pre-cooked polenta is not carried by Publix or Kroger. I found it at Whole Foods.

    The recipe quantities for the amount of pre-cooked polenta and mozzarella did not really work for a 9×13 baking dish. I bought two packages of polenta (12oz each) and only needed one and a half. The mozzarella quantity is way too much. I bought four 1/4 inch slices(which were way to thick) and it was almost 1 1/4 pounds. I think using shredded mozzarella would be much better. Plus you could cover the entire baking dish.

    I altered the tomato sauce a bit by adding thyme and basil in addition to the oregano (all dried). I also used hot turkey sausage.

    Dish was very good (my daughter and her boy friend went back for seconds) but next time I will use slightly smaller sized slices of polenta and use shredded mozzarella.

  17. Loretta Overman

    When I was a child living in the county, one of the things we often had for breakfast was what Mom called Cornmeal mush. I was the one that had to stir it, and I took pride in not having any lumps in it! We ate it with milk and sugar like a hot cereal. Mom spread the lefovers in a buttered square baking pan and smoothed it evenly on top. The next morning she cut the cold mush in squares (like corn bread) and browned both sides melted butter in a hot cast iron skillet. We ate the fried polenta with syrup. Yummy!

    I also like to serve it with just salt and pepper and serve with eggs. This is a very economical meal and delicious!

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