Cheesy, creamy, soul-satisfying comfort food that's irresistible, pumpkin polenta will make anyone a polenta or grits lover. Serve it for breakfast or breakfast-as-dinner. Make it ahead, too, as it re-heats beautifully. It even freezes!
If you grew up in the American South, grits made with coarsely ground cornmeal is a staple dish. As a Southern California girl, cornmeal was not a familiar ingredient to me, outside of baking cornbread, until last year. That's the great thing about travel. You eat differently, discover new things, and find new dishes to love and make at home, like this pumpkin polenta with chicken sausage.
While purists may argue that Southern grits and Italian polenta are different animals, at the heart they are made with coarsely ground cornmeal. Bring broth to a boil, stir in the cornmeal and simmer until the broth is absorbed and you have a creamy dish that is versatile, hearty and comforting. Stir in pumpkin and you've got a new fall favorite dish.
The Right Pot
While almost any medium pot will do, my favorite pot to make polenta in is Le Creuset enameled cast iron. The 3 ½ quart (#22) is the perfect size. The heavy weight provides for even heat distribution and even cooking, even at low heat. And the rounded shape (curved sides not straight) make it easier to stir. Use a wooden spoon.
Le Creuset is not cheap, but it's a smart investment that lasts a lifetime. I use mine all of the time. No, they didn't pay me to write this. I am truly a huge fan of Le Creuset. Tools make a difference, so I tell you what I use from my years of experience to try and help you. You might have other pots that work well too.
Bob's Red mill makes both organic and gluten-free grits also labeled as polenta. It's a nice coarse grind. Bob's Red Mill is available just about everywhere these days. Even their regular (not organic) package is non-GMO, an important consideration when buying anything corn.
For the pumpkin, I have used both homemade puree and canned organic with canned being easier and faster. Be sure to buy organic and in a BPA-free can.
Nice finishing touches for this dish are toasted raw green pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil. I'll post separately about how to roast pumpkin seeds. They can be sprinkled on salads, soups, stews and eaten out of hand. I'm crazy about their taste, and they are wonderfully good for you.
Pumpkin seed oil is a wild deep green color, unlike any other oil I've seen. Terrific nutty flavor. Really nice for this time of year. Makes a great finishing oil and for vinaigrettes too.
For the sausage, I buy Applegate Farms Organic Chicken-Turkey links. All of the flavors are good. Our favorite is the Italian. I keep an extra package in the freezer for quick dinners.
Skip the Sausage - Other Ways to Serve Pumpkin Polenta
- For breakfast, top pumpkin polenta with a poached egg
- For a vegetarian or vegan dish, use vegetable broth, skip the cheese and top with roasted vegetables
- Serve pumpkin polenta as a side dish to roast chicken
- Instead of sausage, top with cooked shrimp
- Topped with Roasted Steakhouse Mushrooms for a vegetarian entree
Pumpkin Polenta with Chicken Sausage
Pumpkin Polenta with Sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ cup finely chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 4 cups broth chicken or vegetable
- 1 cup polenta or corn grits 6 ounces, Bobs Red Mill
- 4 links cooked chicken-turkey sausage Applegate Farms
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup grated parmesan optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Finishing Touches
- Toasted raw green pumpkin seeds
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Chopped fresh sage or parsley
- Add oil to a medium pot. When oil is warm, add onion and cook until tis soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
- Add broth to pot and bring to a boil. Add cornmeal and stir well or whisk so it does not clump. Turn heat to low and cover. Cook polenta approximately 20 minutes, stirring several times so it does not stick on the bottom of the pan. When it is near done, taste to feel the texture, It should be creamy with a little texture.
- While polenta is cooking, slice sausage links in half lengthwise, then dice crosswise. Brown in a non-stick pan.
- When polenta is creamy and all broth is absorbed, stir in the pumpkin and heat through. If using Parmesan, stir in now. Ladle polenta into shallow bowls and top with chicken sausage. Garnish with options if desire.