Italian comfort food doesn’t get much better (or easier) than cheesy polenta baked with Italian sausage and eggs.
I can’t believe I don’t have a family story for this one…
Somehow, believe it or not, I never remember eating polenta until I was grown, married, and had kids. We always had pasta in our house but never polenta. I have no idea why, but my best guess is that it must’ve been geographical. I think polenta is a Northern Italy thing, and I’d have to go back and check, but I’m guessing that’s not where my grandparents came from. So… my personal history with polenta is relatively short.
I vaguely remember watching someone prepare it on a cooking show, and I know we started making it regularly when the boys were little. My brother and his wife have 3 girls, all the same ages as our boys; and when they were tiny people, we would get together for dinner often – you know, before they were in school or had these crazy soccer and band schedules to juggle. The kids entertained each other, we got some time to relax and catch up, and we got to cuddle with each others’ babies; I miss those days.
And that’s where I remember making this polenta dish first. I honestly can’t remember if I made it or if my sister-in-law made it, but it quickly became a staple in both our homes.
What is polenta anyway?
Polenta. The simplest description might be “Italian grits.” It’s creamy, cheesy, and easy to customize to your family’s tastes. If you’ve got cornmeal and chicken broth, you can whip some up in minutes.
You can sometimes find already-prepared polenta in the pasta aisle at the store – usually in a plastic wrapping similar to breakfast sausage. That kind of polenta is thick and easy to slice into disks to fry up in olive oil and serve with tomato sauce. I honestly have never bought it or tried it just because making your own is inexpensive, easy, and you can control the ingredients.
How do you serve polenta?
Polenta is super versatile! No pasta? No problem. Replace it with polenta. Serve it creamy topped with a hearty tomato sauce and meatballs or Italian sausage. Want a more classic take? Mix it with a sharp Pecorino Romano cheese and your favorite herbs. Can’t go wrong.
If you aren’t one for grits, or the texture bothers you, never fear. I have a solution: fried polenta. Everybody loves fried, right? And everything tastes better when it’s fried too, doesn’t it?
Just use a thicker consistency when cooking your polenta, spread in a pan, refrigerate for a bit, and then when it’s cool enough to handle you can cut it into squares and fry in olive oil. Top with that tomato sauce and enjoy.
What you need for this Baked Polenta with Italian Sausage and Eggs:
- chicken broth
- basil, oregano, parsely, garlic powder
- diced Italian tomatoes
- Italian sausage
How to make this dish:
First, you’ll prepare the polenta. Boil the chicken broth, remove it from the heat, and slowly whisk in the cornmeal until thickened – just a minute or two. Add the butter, cheese, and spices and stir with a spoon until combined. Then pour in the milk until you get the right consistency – remember, for this dish, you want it slightly thickened. It’s just easier to handle that way. But if you’re going to eat it with sauce and meatballs, it’s better creamier, so add more milk!
Once the polenta is ready, preheat your oven to 375, and grab a baking dish. Spray it with cooking spray, spread the polenta out evenly in the pan, and make 6 little wells with the back of a spoon. Crack the eggs into those wells, top it with the cooked Italian sausage and tomatoes, and bake that bad boy for 20-30 minutes. If you like your eggs a little runny, it’ll be closer to the 20 minute mark. Not such a runny fan? 30 minutes will be your friend. As long as the white part of the egg is opaque, you’re good to go.
Top it with more cheese if you want and serve hot.
Variations on Baked Polenta:
Italian sausage is one of my very favorite proteins. But I get it if you maybe don’t share my obsession. I’m happy to share some other ways we’ve made this baked polenta, and feel free to change it up from here as well!
We’ve replaced the sausage with ham, and I’m sure we’ve topped it with cheddar on occasion (maybe heresy but tasty, nonetheless). It would also be fabulous with salami or pepperoni, mozzarella or goat cheese or Feta. Peppers or spinach or mushrooms would make great veggie additions. The possibilities are endless. Follow your nose and tummy.
How are you going to make this Italian comfort food your own?
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Baked Polenta with Italian Sausage and Eggs
- 6 c. chicken broth
- 2 c. cornmeal
- 4 Tb. unsalted butter
- ½ c. grated Parmesan
- 2 tsp. basil
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 2 tsp. parsley
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ – 1 c. milk
- 6 eggs
- 1 can diced Italian tomatoes
- ½ c. browned Italian sausage
- Bring the chicken broth to a boil, remove from heat, and slowly whisk in the cornmeal until thickened, only a minute or two. Add the butter, Parmesan, and spices and mix with a spoon. Once incorporated, add the milk while stirring to create the desired consistency. (A slightly thicker consistency is easier for this particular dish.)
- Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and spread the polenta evenly in it. Create 6 wells, spaced evenly apart, with the back of a spoon. Crack an egg into each well. Add the Italian sausage and tomatoes on top and bake at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. For runnier yokes, aim for the shorter baking time. Serve hot and top with more cheese, if desired.