Butternut Squash Polenta With Sausage and Onions

polenta sausage

Quick!  Before  winter ends, you’ve got to make this stick to your ribs, warm the cockles of your heart, comfort food supremo dish of butternut squash polenta with sausage. Thanks to Melissa Clark of the NY Times for this recipe, which I encourage you to read and watch her cook on the NY Times website.  

This really is a perfect recipe for the end of winter,  when you think you’ve had all the butternut squash you think you can stand, but there’s really not much else at the Farmer’s Market.  It sort of sneaks the squash in by melting it into the polenta, adding a bit of “what is that?” flavor while still allowing the corn flavor to shine through. It also rounds out this one dish meal so you don’t need to serve a separate vegetable. (We did, however, put out small side bowls of home made applesauce, which were a perfect accompaniment.)

Melissa’s is a very basic recipe that lends itself to creative tweaking, so we doubled the squash and the fennel seeds and adding grated Parmesan and some chopped parsley to the polenta. We also added a tablespoon of sherry to the polenta near the end of its cooking, just because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Next time, I may try making the polenta with a mix of chicken broth and milk (see video here), and skip the cheese.

In addition to watching Melissa’s video, I encourage you to read this post on polenta making so you know how to tell when the polenta is done – much later in the cooking process than you think.

(See recipe after the jump)


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons or more kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup polenta (not quick cooking)
  • 2 cups grated butternut squash (peel and seed it before grating)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Black pepper, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian pork sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 teaspoons minced rosemary
  • 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 large onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
  • 1 tbsp sherry
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine 4 1/2 cups water, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in polenta. Stir in squash. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until polenta and squash are very tender and the polenta is the right texture. Towards the end of the cooking time, add the sherry. When it is done, stir on the butter, cheese and parsley. Add more salt and pepper as needed.

While polenta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 7-10 mins. Add sausage, rosemary,  crushed red pepper and fennel seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and cooked through. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Add another tbsp of oil to the skillet, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Return sausage to pan and stir to heat through.

Spoon polenta into bowls and top with sausage and onion.

YIELD 4 servings

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