Monday, March 19, 2012

Italian Polenta Casserole - Freezable!

If you've been around the blog long enough, you know that I LOVE meals that freeze well. A few friends and I exchange frozen meals (made with organic ingredients) each month. It's fun to exchange in a small group because while I only make one recipe, I get two or three different ones back! I also get to try new recipes and things I might not think to make myself.

I made this Italian Polenta Casserole for March's exchange. It utilizes the homemade turkey sausage and the oven baked polenta I shared recently. I imagine you could use different veggies (zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms) in place of the eggplant if you're not an eggplant fan. Next time I make this, I might add a can of tomato sauce or paste to it so that the sauce is a bit thicker, but overall this is really yummy! I changed this recipe to suit my needs, and it will be written as such here.

This recipe makes enough sauce for three casseroles, so you can eat one casserole now and freeze the other for later, also having extra sauce left over that's good over pasta, in a lasagna, in a soup, etc! If you want to make three casseroles, you'll want to make three recipes of the oven baked polenta, the recipe is only written for two recipes of the polenta. 

Italian Polenta Casserole, Adapted from Delish.com

Ingredients
16 ounces turkey sausage (I used the homemade turkey sausage recipe)
16 ounces ground beef 
2 (1-pound) jumbo onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1T Italian seasoning
2 cans (28-ounce) whole tomatoes in puree
2 small (1-pound) eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
9 cups water
2 1/4 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter
3 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram (or 1 teaspoon dried), can also use oregano
Parmesan Cheese to taste (optional)


Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In each of two 9X13 pans, whisk together 4 1/2 cups water, 1 cup + 2T cornmeal,  2t salt, and  1/4 pepper. Cover, and bake 15 minutes then stir. Re-cover and cook 15 more minutes.

Remove polenta from oven, and add  to each pan: 1/4c + 2T milk, 3T butter, and 1 1/2t fresh marjoram (or 1/2 t dried); whisk briskly until smooth. Add Parmesan if using. Smooth polenta evenly in the pan.

Turn oven down to 400 degrees.

In 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, cook sausage and ground beef on medium-high 5 to 6 minutes or until browned, stirring and breaking up meat with side of spoon. With slotted spoon, transfer meat mixture to medium bowl.

To same Dutch oven, add onion; cook on medium 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic and Italian seasoning; cook 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with their puree; heat to boiling on high, breaking up tomatoes with side of spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add eggplant and meat; cover and cook 5 minutes on medium. Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer or until eggplant is tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Distribute filling evenly over two pans of polenta and another bowl (to save extra sauce) to cool. 

Bake one casserole 30 minutes or until hot. Let stand 10 minutes for easier serving. Meanwhile, rapidly cool other casserole and extra sauce, then freeze both.

To reheat after thawing 24 hours:

Conventional oven: Heat, loosely covered, at 350 degrees F 1 hour; uncover and heat 20 minutes longer.

Microwave oven: Heat, covered, on Low (30 percent) 20 minutes, then on High 18 minutes longer.

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