Parmesan polenta is a creamy cornmeal dish. Our recipe pairs it with a robust Italian sausage ragu. Make this recipe for a delicious dinner!
This cheesy polenta recipe is topped with a delicious Italian sausage ragu that only takes about 30 minutes to make.
However, if you have time, simmer the ragu for several hours, then make the polenta just before serving. As a result, the sauce will taste even better.
What is a ragu?
Simply put, it’s a meat-based tomato sauce used in Italian cooking. Typically, the sauce comes with a serving of pasta.
The flavors are similar to a Bolognese, but the ratios for the ingredients are slightly different between the two. So, as a result, a ragu is thinner overall.
Different regions of Italy have their own versions that may include a variety of vegetables or large cuts of meat with sausages.
How to make Parmesan polenta with Italian sausage ragu
Simmer the Italian sausage ragu to allow the flavors to meld together. Then, spoon some over a bowl of homemade Italian polenta and top with Parmesan cheese.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Note: This is just a partial list of ingredients. For the full ingredient list, see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Italian sausage ragu
- Hot Italian sausages – Since the meat will be removed from the casings, bulk sausage can be used instead. You can also use sweet Italian sausage if you prefer the ragu to not be spicy.
- Tomato paste – This helps thicken the ragu with the short cook time. If you’ll be simmering the ragu low and slow instead, you can leave this out altogether.
- Dry red wine – While this does add a depth of flavor to the sauce, it can be omitted if you don’t have any on hand or need to make the dish without alcohol.
- San Marzano tomatoes – These are known for their sweet flavor and low acidity because of where they are grown, but any brand will work just fine.
- Dry polenta – Technically polenta is the name of the dish, which is made from cornmeal.
Choosing a package of cornmeal marked “polenta” isn’t necessary, However, there are different grinding sizes for cornmeal, so polenta cornmeal will have the best texture.
- Heavy cream – Using cream instead of water is the secret to this cheesy polenta recipe. It creates a rich, creamy texture and enhances the flavor of the cornmeal.
However, if you find it to be too rich, just add a bit of chicken stock or additional water.
- Romano cheese – While polenta is usually made with Parmesan, I prefer the bolder flavor of Romano. Feel free to use Parmesan instead, but be sure to taste before adding salt.
Make the Italian sausage ragu
- Brown the meat and saute with garlic.
- Next, add the wine, sugar, and spices and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until thickened, adding the fresh basil towards the end so it doesn’t wilt.
Cook the creamy polenta
- While the ragu is simmering, bring a pot of water to boil with salt and olive oil.
- Whisk in the cornmeal, a little at a time, to avoid lumps. Cook on low until the polenta thickens.
- Then, add in the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
- Continue cooking, thinning with additional liquid if needed.
Finish and serve
- When the polenta is done, spoon into a bowl and top with a scoop of ragu.
- Sprinkle grated Parmesan and parsley over the top before serving.
- Storage – Keep in separate containers in the refrigerator. The ragu should be used within 3-4 days, while the polenta will last for up to a week.
- Freezing – Since dairy doesn’t usually freeze well, I wouldn’t recommend freezing this particular polenta. However, ragu freezes beautifully and can be stored for up to 3 months. Just thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
- Reheating – Simmer the ragu in a saucepan on the stove until warmed through. For the polenta, either heat on the stove or in the microwave with additional liquid or cut into squares after it’s chilled and saute in butter.
OTHER POLENTA RECIPES TO MAKE
Save time and effort by making Instant Pot Creamy Polenta instead! It tastes great as is or can be paired with the ragu from this recipe.
Otherwise, here are some other variations on this classic Italian dish:
- Polenta Breakfast Cakes
- Slow Roasted Tomato and Spinach Polenta Cakes
- Polenta with Corn and Green Chiles
Watch our cheesy polenta recipe video!
Parmesan Polenta with Italian Sausage Ragu
- 1 lb Hot Italian Sausages
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 28 oz crushed San Marzano tomatoes (See Note 1)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine optional
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 6 basil leaves roughly chopped
- 4 cups water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup dry polenta
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup Romano cheese grated
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley chopped
- parmesan cheese
- Remove sausage from casings. In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium high and add sausage meat. Break up with wooden spoon and brown, 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine (optional), tomatoes, sugar, dried oregano and salt and red pepper flakes, sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and simmer until reduced slightly, about 20 minutes (Start to make the polenta). In last 10 minutes of simmering, add the basil and stir. Season the sauce with more salt to taste.
- Bring water, olive oil and salt to a boil.
- Slowly whisk in the dry polenta and to avoid lumps. Cook on low for 10 minutes. This will sputter so keep on low and watch out.
- Add the heavy cream, black pepper, grated Romano cheese. Stir to incorporate. Simmer for another 15 minutes more. If it gets too thick you can thin it out with more chicken stock or water, to your liking.
- Season to taste and take off the heat. Divide polenta in serving bowls and top with sausage gravy. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and parsley.
- Per The Kitchn, San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and they are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count. Feel free to use whatever brand you prefer.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.