Italian Polenta Cheese Bake

Traditionally, polenta is Italian peasant food. It’s extremely inexpensive to make, since all you really need for basic polenta is water, cornmeal, a pot, and a heating source. I love polenta because it’s so versatile. You can bake, fry, or grill polenta in a variety of shapes with different complementary ingredients. It can also be served soft.

This polenta cheese bake is derived from several different recipes around the Web. For this recipe, you will need:

  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 3/4 cup of corn meal
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups of shredded cheese
  • 3 cups of ground hamburger or Italian sausage
  • 1/2 jar of pasta sauce
Except for the water and cornmeal, all the measurements above are approximate, and you can add or delete as you like.

Preheat oven to 350. Bring water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Whisk in corn meal, a little at a time. It’s very important to not add it all at once, or it will get lumpy. Turn heat down to low.

Whisk in cornmeal, a little at a time

Let polenta cook until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir often to remove lumps. Once thickened, remove from heat. Add butter and cheese.

Remove from heat, add butter and cheese

Mix polenta with meat and spoon into baking dish. Since it’s just the two of us, I actually only used half the polenta and a smaller dish. The rest I’ll freeze as cakes for a meal at a later date (see instructions at bottom of this post).

Mix polenta with meat and spoon into baking dish

Pour pasta sauce over polenta and meat mixture.

Place pan in oven until sauce is bubbling (approximately 15 minutes).

Remove from oven, let cool, and serve!

Recipe adaptations:

  • Use milk or cream instead of water
  • Add caramelized onions
  • Add garlic
  • Add mushrooms
  • Add mixed veggies
  • Substitute ground chicken or turkey for beef
Polenta freezing instructions:
To save polenta as cakes for a later date, after removing polenta from heat, pour into a square baking dish. Let cool, then cover and place in fridge over night. Cut hardened polenta into square pieces. Place pieces into freezer-safe container and place in freezer.
 What are your favorite polenta dishes?

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5 Comments

  1. I just thought I’d tell you that I find myself keep coming back to this recipe!! I think it is the ultimate in comfort food. Me, husband, and three kids (4, 3, and 1) all eat it and enjoy!! I think I originally found this post when you posted it on a mom facebook group? Anyways thanks!! –Mel

    1. Oh, thank you for telling me! I’m glad you like it! It’s definitely one of my favorites…quick to make and delicious.

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