Creamy Polenta with Italian Sausage and Kale is a hearty, flavorful meal filled with textures and color. This is the ultimate cold weather comfort food!
I’ve written many times about the importance of balancing flavor. The best recipes incorporate elements of salty, sweet, bitter, acid and umami. Other important aspects of a dish to consider are texture and color, which can greatly affect our enjoyment of food.
This creamy polenta with Italian sausage and kale has a wonderful balance of flavor, texture and color. The polenta is creamy and rich yet slightly toothsome, the kale is bright green, surprisingly tender, and the sausage is crisp and caramelized on the outside for a truly satisfying meal.
How to Make Creamy Polenta with Italian Sausage and Kale
I’ve used spicy Italian sausage here, which is one of my favorites, but varieties like andouille would work just as well.
I’ve noted in the instructions that you can add a splash of water during the browning process if it looks like there’s a chance that the bottom of the pan might burn (this is known as deglazing). Try to keep the water to a minimum. Too much water will decrease the crispiness of the sausage.
Why Blanch the Kale?
As you’ll see in the instructions, I recommend blanching the kale in boiling water for 60 seconds. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but I find that it really improves the texture. The kale is much more tender in the final dish. If you dislike kale because it’s too tough, try blanching it.
In addition to tenderizing the kale, blanching turns the leaves bright green, adding a beautiful color to the dish.
I’ve used a small amount of crushed red pepper, not enough to add a substantial level of heat to the dish. You can add more or omit it completely depending on personal preference.
More Dinner Recipes
Creamy Polenta with Italian Sausage and Kale
- 3 cups chicken stock, either homemade or low sodium
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 cup polenta corn grits
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 cups torn kale leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 links Italian sausage
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- In a dutch oven or large heavy-bottom saucepan, bring the stock, water, salt and pepper to a boil over high heat.
- Slowly whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.
- Stir in the butter, taste, and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Cover and set aside. (Note: the polenta can be made 24 hours in advance. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat during the final step of the recipe).
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. When the water reaches a boil, add the kale leaves and cook for 60 seconds, then use tongs to transfer to the ice bath to halt the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the sausage and cover. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for 15 minutes. (Note: if you're using sausage that's precooked, skip this step, adding the olive oil to the skillet in the next step). Once the sausage is cooked, use tongs to transfer it to a cutting board.
- Cut the sausage into approximately 1/2 inch slices. Over medium heat, brown on each side for several minutes (the more caramelized the sausage, the better the flavor in the final dish will be). If at any point the bottom of the pan looks like it might burn, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, scrape up the glaze and incorporate it into the sausage. Once the sausage is browned, 3-5 minutes, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic, and the crushed red pepper. Allow the garlic to cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute, and then add the kale to the pan. Stir to coat the kale with the seasoned oil in the pan. Add the sausage back to the pan and allow it to reheat for a few minutes if it has cooled down.
- Reheat the polenta over low heat, stirring, if necessary. Serve the sausage and kale over the polenta. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
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