by Erin of http://www.browniebites.net
This easy, breezy, and oh so cheesy casserole is a wonderful solution for an easy weeknight dinner. Serious time is saved through the use of pre-made polenta and a jar of pasta sauce jazzed up with sweet Italian sausage and chopped mushrooms. I started really getting into polenta when my son began eating solid foods. I make polenta from scratch by combining coarse cornmeal with water and letting it simmer for 45 minutes. Once it was nice and soft, I’d add a bit of milk, Parmesan, and then season it to taste with a bit of salt and some herbs. It was delicious and for a while it made frequent appearances as a side dish. Jasper loved it – it’s a perfect early food for little ones – and I plan on making it more often when my little girl starts trying more new foods.
For this casserole, I chose to use Uncle Steve’s Organic Arrabiata pasta sauce. You may remember this sauce when I reviewed all of the other flavors a couple of weeks ago. I’m in love with this sauce because it contains no additional sugar. The ingredient list is very simple, consisting only of organic tomatoes, olive oil, onion, basil, garlic, salt, and black pepper. This spicy arrabiata version also gets some extra heat from the addition of crushed red pepper. I chose to add sweet Italian sausage to the sauce for a really amazing spicy-sweet flavor combination. My husband said this was one of the best casseroles I’ve ever made – one worthy of repeating!
While I adore homemade polenta, the pre-made polenta that comes packaged in a tube is ideal for this recipe. It’s compact and firm, different from the hot cereal consistency of the homemade variety, so you can cut it into slices that hold their shape. It’s a perfect gluten free substitute for pasta. This dish is reminiscent of lasagna with many of the same similar flavors but uses polenta slices instead of lasagna noodles.
The best part is it’s so easy to make a big casserole that will serve the whole family with leftovers! All you have to do is simmer some mushrooms and sausage with the sauce, and then layer that with the polenta slices and a mixture of ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, an egg, and Italian seasoning. Then cover the top with shredded cheese and bake that bad boy. Dinner is served.
The thick slices of polenta serve as a sturdy base so that this casserole is easy to slice into pretty squares of cheesy goodness. The polenta absorbs all of the delicious flavors from the seasoned cheese mixture and that wonderful Uncle Steve’s sauce and every bite will make your taste buds do a happy dance in your mouth.
Add this one to your dinner rotation this week – you won’t regret it. Enjoy!