Roasted Veg and Polenta Casserole

I made this meal a few weeks ago when I had friends over to watch Glee.  I had a large container of leftover roasted veggies in the refrigerator and at first I was going to serve the veggies over polenta but then, in a stroke of genius, I came up with the idea for this casserole.  The girls seemed to think it was pretty good (either that, or they didn’t want to hurt my feelings).

Start by making four serving of polenta according to the package directions.  Add a handful or two of shredded cheddar cheese to the polenta (mozzarella would work well, too, but I used what I had on hand).  Spread a layer of the polenta on the bottom of a baking dish.  Don’t make the layer too thick (you probably won’t use all four servings).

Top the polenta with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Marinara.  Oh my gosh.  So good.  So fragrant and garlicky.  I’m going to have to go back to TJ’s and get more.  Stat.

Top with marinara with a few handfuls of roughly chopped spinach and a drizzle of marinara.

Top the spinach with a giant pile of roasted vegetables (probably a few cups worth).  I used sweet potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, and broccoli.  There is a quick explanation of how to roast vegetables at the end of this post.

Top the roasted veggies with another layer of marinara sauce.

Top the marinara sauce with a sprinkle of extra sharp cheddar cheese (again, you could use mozzarella cheese, but I had cheddar on hand).

Place the casserole on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and the casserole is hot and bubbly.

I didn’t get a picture of the casserole after it was served because I was too busy devouring what was on my plate!  I’m a big fan of casseroles and this one didn’t disappoint – the polenta was creamy and cheesy, the vegetables had great flavor from being roasted, and the tomato sauce tied the two together perfectly.  All in all, I would say it was a success and I would be happy to make it (and serve it to guests) again!

I’m hoping to do a separate post with pictures of how to roast vegetables, but for now here is a quick explanation.  Not all vegetables roast at the same rate, so for this recipe, cook the vegetables in two batches – first the sweet potato and eggplant, then the broccoli and mushrooms.

Chop a large sweet potato and a medium eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes.  Toss the sweet potato and the eggplant with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread the sweet potato and eggplant in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake at 450 for 35 minutes or until the eggplant and sweet potato are tender when poked with a fork.

Chop a crown of broccoli into equal sized florets.  Quarter eight ounces of baby bella mushrooms.  Toss the broccoli and mushrooms with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread the broccoli and mushrooms in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes or until the broccoli and mushrooms are cooked but not mushy.  Watch the broccoli carefully because it doesn’t take much to burn the florets.

Cheesy Polenta with Black Beans and Sweet Potato

As I noted in the Cheesy Polenta with Swiss Chard post, Jill and I like to modify the recipe with different combinations of vegetables to serve over the cheesy polenta. In anticipation of the change of seasons, I made a version of the recipe with black beans and sweet potatoes because the color and flavor combination are reminiscent of fall.

To make this variation, I finely chopped one small onion and sautéed it in the olive oil until translucent. Then I peeled, diced, and sautéed two medium sized sweet potatoes with the onion in the olive oil until soft. I added diced chicken sausage (I used Aidell’s Italian Style chicken sausage this time instead of the chicken and apple sausage), a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, and a can of black beans (instead of cannellini beans). In lieu of the swiss chard, I added chopped fresh spinach. I served the mixture over cheesy polenta, prepared as noted in the previous post.

What combination sounds good to you?  Leave a comment and let us know what variation of this recipe that you would like to eat!

Cheesy Polenta with black beans and sweet potato
Cheesy Polenta with black beans and sweet potato

Cheesy Polenta with Swiss Chard

Cheesy polenta with Swiss chard is one of my favorite recipes for several reasons.  This dish is quick, simple to make, and smells incredible while cooking.  The greens, reds, and yellows in this dish are beautiful.  I also like how easy it is to create variations of this recipe based on what is fresh in the garden or what I have on hand in my pantry; Kale or spinach can substitute for Swiss chard and the Cannellini beans can be replaced with black beans, garbanzo beans, or virtually any other type of bean.

To make this dish, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Polenta or yellow corn grits (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Polenta)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 15.5oz can Cannellini beans
  • 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 chicken sausage links (I used Aidells Chicken and Apple Sausage)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (I used Organic Valley Vermont Sharp)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
Ingredients
The ingredients

To prepare the Swiss chard, run a knife along each side of the chard stems to remove them. With the stems removed, cut across the leafy pieces in about 1.5 inch intervals.  Wash the chard pieces in a salad spinner or under cool running water.  Drain and rinse the Cannellini beans, grate the cheddar cheese, and slice the chicken sausage in half inch rounds.

Prepared Chard
Prepared Swiss Chard

Prepare four servings of polenta according the directions.  For Bob’s Red Mill polenta, this was adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to three cups of boiling water before adding 1 cup of polenta and cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the polenta is cooked, add 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese to the polenta and stir well over low heat.  If the polenta begins to look too thick before you finish cooking the rest of the meal, you can add a little butter or a little extra water and stir well.

While the polenta is cooking, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Cook the chicken sausage rounds in the oil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Add the Cannellini beans and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes with juices and cook for another minute.

Pre-chard mixture
Chicken sausage, cannellini beans, and diced tomatoes

Add two handfuls of Swiss chard to the chicken sausage, Cannellini bean, and tomato mixture and gently mix until the chard is wilted.  It will look like too much chard at first, but chard wilts quickly.

Add the chard
Add the chard

As the chard wilts, add two handfuls at a time and stir gently until all of the chard is incorporated into the mixture.

Post Chard
The chard will wilt quickly

Spoon one serving of the cheesy polenta into a bowl and top with the chicken sausage, beans, tomatoes, and chard mixture. Garnish with extra grated cheddar to taste and serve.

Serve and Enjoy
Serve and enjoy