Inspired by this lovely blog post, I knew I had to put together my own version of this warm, comforting dish. Polenta is a favorite around here, along with sausage. Putting it all together into one cheesy dish made a great casserole that was easy to do ahead and serve later.
There are three parts here. The ragout, or meat; the bechamel and the polenta. There are no rules so vary them as you like.
-Ground Beef, 1 1/4 pounds
-Italian Sausage, 1 1/2 pounds
-Yellow or White Onion, 1 medium
-Garlic, 6 or 7 cloves
-Parsley, 3 or 4 tablespoons fresh snipped or dry equivalent
-Rosemary, 2 tablespoons fresh snipped or dry equivalent
-Basil. 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh snipped or dry equivalent
-Tomato Paste, 2 to 3 tablespoons
-Beef Stock, 1 1/2 cups
-Flour, 1/2 cup
-Butter, 1/2 cup
-Milk, 4 cups
-Nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon
-Corn Meal, 2 1/2 cups
-Water, 9 cups
-Mozzarella, 12 ounces or 3 cups grated
Snip the herbs, mince the garlic, chop the onion and slice the carrot into thin slices.
Remove the sausage from the casing. Heat a little olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the sausage and beef and brown.
Add the garlic, onion and carrots and continue cooking over medium-high heat until the onion begins to brown a bit.
Add the herbs, tomato paste and black pepper.
Stir it all together with the beef stock, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Meanwhile, bring 9 cups of water to a boil and whisk in the corn meal. Continue whisking and mashing out any lumps for a few minutes. Reduce the heat and let it cook until it’s nice and thick, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
While the polenta is cooking, start on the bechamel. Melt one stick of butter over medium heat and stir in the flour. Cook for a minute or two.
Add the milk and stir until it’s well blended and smooth.
Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Let it continue to cook over low heat until it’s thick.
Once the polenta is done, stir in the cheese and mix until the cheese melts and it’s all nice and gooey.
Spread a layer of polenta in a large baking dish.
Add a layer of bechamel.
And a layer of the meat mixture.
Repeat with another layer. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly. Or, if you’re cooking ahead of time, cover it and put it in the fridge. Bake it later for about 30 minutes.
Dish it up and enjoy! It went very well with a side of sauteed spinach.