I found this beautiful recipe a couple of weeks ago on the Simply Recipes blog.She in turn had gotten it from her father who adapted it from a Sunset Magazine recipe.Now I’ve added my own changes to make it delightfully vegetarian.Isn’t it funny the way these things work?

Now, she recommended using zucchini to make it vegetarian, but I think I’ll wait until July when zucchini are coming out of my ears before trying that.I also considered eggplant as it would undoubtedly lend a hearty smokiness to the dish.But I already have a fantastic eggplant parmesan recipe, so I resisted.

What I did instead was use some Gimme Lean Vegetarian Sausage.You are probably wondering what I was thinking.Haven’t I always told you to stay away from fake meat?Well, yes and no.If you go back and read those posts, you’ll see that I warn you against making them a means unto themselves.As an ingredient, they can be quite lovely.And this particular product, with its hints of fennel and sweet spiciness, imparts a subtle complexity to any dish.

So I present to you the Simply Recipes dish with my minor adaptations.I hope you enjoy it thoroughly.And after dinner when you find yourself happily digesting, perhaps you will peruse her charming blog.You might just find an inspiration for tomorrow’s feast.

Polenta Sausage Mozzarella Casserole

  • 5 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 med yellow onion, halved lengthwise then cut into wedges
  • 1 medium bell pepper (red, green, orange or yellow), cut lengthwise into thin slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 package Gimme Lean Italian sausage
  • 2 pounds of prepared polenta, 1/2-inch slices if using prepared polenta in a tube or you can use one recipe of creamy polenta, leave out the cream cheese. (Rowan’s Note: It is worth seeking out a tube of polenta.I made my own.It tasted fine, but was a big messy hassle.)
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch slices
  1. Preheat oven broiler on high. Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a 2-3 qt saucepan on medium heat. Add tomatoes and oregano, simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes.
  2. While the tomatoes are cooking, in a large frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, stirring and breaking it into small pieces as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Cover the pan and cook until vegetables are tender and the sausage is cooked through, about 5-8 more minutes. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. While the sauce is cooking, coat the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan with a 1 Tbsp oil. Add the cooked polenta (or slices) to the pan. Coat the top of the polenta with the remaining 1/2 Tbsp oil. Broil the polenta about 4 inches from the heating element until golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. 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.

Makes 6 servings.

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