This post is sponsored by Alessi Foods. All opinions are my own.
Classic Italian flavor. Fresh, high-quality ingredients. Pure comfort on a plate. This Sausage and Vegetable Polenta Casserole has all of it!
The flavor stars of this dish are Alessi Kale Pesto and the incredible Alessi Marinara Sauce. Both are layered between turkey sausage, polenta rounds, zucchini, and red bell pepper and cooked in the Instant Pot or slow cooker, making this an easy meal for busy weeknights, or a comforting family dinner to enjoy on the weekend.
Authentically Italian Alessi Products
What sets this recipe apart from a standard throw-in-the-packaged-food-and-cook casserole are the quality of ingredients. The fresh Italian flavor comes from Alessi, a family-owned company that’s been in the business of making tasty, authentic Italian cooking staples for 72 years!
The Alessi products I used:
- Alessi Marinara sauce – Hands-down the best marinara sauce I’ve ever tasted! The ingredients are pure, simple and recognizable.
- Alessi Kale Pesto – So much garlic and kale flavor packed into one spoonful. I drizzled it over the polenta so you get a hint of pesto in each bite.
- Alessi Olive Oil – Fruity oil made from olives grown and harvested in Italy. I sautéed the veggies in this oil and it gave them so much flavor!
- Alessi Tuscan Seasoning – This classic savory blend of herbs was the perfect seasoning for the veggies.
- Alessi Garlic Puree – This puree makes it easy to add garlic flavor to any dish. I used it in the whipped ricotta. More to come on that!
The Remaining Ingredients
Here’s a brief rundown of the remaining ingredients:
- Fresh vegetables – Zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic join forces to give this casserole a wholesome veggie component.
- Italian turkey sausage – I opted for ground turkey sausage to lighten things up, but regular Italian sausage would work well.
- Polenta – It adds such a hearty and unique texture to this dish and is a welcome alternative to pasta. In this casserole, I am using it in pre-cooked, solidified form, which I sliced into rounds for layering.
Using the Instant Pot
This casserole comes together quickly in 3 easy steps:
- Brown the sausage and sauté the veggies in the Instant Pot using the Sauté function.
- Layer the sausage mixture, polenta, pesto, and sauce and repeat.
- Cook on the manual setting for 5 minutes! Once cooking is complete, there will be excess liquid in the pot from the veggies. To evaporate the extra liquid and thicken the sauce, simply turn on the Sauté function again and let everything bubble for 5 minutes.
Using the Slow Cooker
The steps for making this casserole in the slow cooker are quite similar to the Instant Pot. The only difference is that you’ll cook the sausage and veggies in a separate pan on the stove.
Layer in the ingredients and cook the casserole on high for 2-4 hours or on low for 4-6 hours. Much like the Instant Pot version, there may be excess liquid in the pot. To take care of that, cook the casserole uncovered for the remaining 30 minutes.
The Whipped Ricotta Topping
The whipped ricotta is an extra special finishing touch to the casserole. When whipped with the garlic and lemon juice, the ricotta becomes light and airy with a bright, tangy flavor. A dollop of whipped ricotta on top of the warm casserole will melt into the marinara, adding rich and creamy flavor to an already dynamite sauce. Finally, an extra drizzle of pesto and some freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top will take this casserole to the next level!
There you have it! A next level casserole made in your Instant Pot or slow cooker with all pantry-friendly ingredients found at your local grocery store! And I’m not just talking about the produce and sausage. You can find Alessi products at most local grocers! If you’re more of an online grocery shopper, purchase Alessi products right on their website. As a bonus, Alessi is generously offering my readers 15% off all orders with the code DELISH and free shipping on all online orders over $20!
If you need another reason to put this Sausage and Vegetable Polenta Casserole on your menu, take it from my husband, who after eating the leftovers for probably the 5th time this week, said “I will never get tired of eating this casserole!”Print
Sausage and Vegetable Polenta Casserole
- Yield: 4–5 servings 1x
A comforting, lightened-up Italian-inspired casserole made with fresh, high-quality ingredients from Alessi. Make it in the Instant Pot or slow cooker for an easy, weeknight meal!
- 1/2 tablespoon Alessi Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 pound Italian turkey sausage
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Alessi Tuscan Seasoning
- 16 ounces pre-cooked polenta (in tube), sliced into thin rounds
- 3 tablespoons Alessi Kale Pesto, divided
- 24 ounces Alessi Marinara Sauce
- 1 container (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon Alessi Garlic Puree
- Salt and pepper
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh chopped parsley
- Extra Pesto
- Cook the sausage and veggies. If you’re using the Instant Pot, press the Sauté button and add the Alessi Olive Oil to the pot. Add in the sausage and cook until browned. Then, stir in the onion, garlic, zucchini, red bell pepper, and Alessi Tuscan Seasoning. Cook for a few minutes until the veggies have softened. Keep 1/3 of the sausage mixture in the Instant Pot and transfer the rest to a bowl. If you’re using the Slow Cooker: heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add in the sausage and cook until browned. Then, stir in the onion, garlic, zucchini, red bell pepper, and Alessi Tuscan Seasoning. Cook for a few minutes until the veggies have softened. Layer 1/3 of the sausage mixture on the bottom of a slow cooker.
- Layer: Over the sausage mixture, layer the following: 1/3 of the polenta rounds, a drizzle of pesto (1 tablespoon), and 1 cup sauce. Then, repeat with the sausage mixture, 1/3 of the polenta rounds, a drizzle of pesto (1 tablespoon), and 1 cup sauce. Finish with the final group of polenta rounds and 1 cup sauce.
- Cook the casserole. For the Instant Pot, press the manual button, and set the timer to cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Naturally release pressure for 10 minutes. Remove the lid. If there is excess liquid pooling on the sides, press the Sauté button again and bring the excess liquid to a low simmer, cooking for an additional 5 minutes. This will allow the liquid to evaporate. For the Slow cooker, cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for 4-6 hours. If there is excess liquid pooling on the sides, keep the slow cooker cooking and remove the cover for a half hour to let the liquid evaporate.
- Make the whipped ricotta: Add the ricotta, lemon juice, garlic puree, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to a food processor. Process until ingredients reach a smooth texture.
- To serve: Spoon the casserole into bowls and top with whipped ricotta, parmesan, fresh parsley, and pesto.
If your casserole is still a bit watery even after following the above instructions, it always helps to turn off the Instant Pot or slow cooker and just let the casserole rest for while. The sauce will thicken as it sits.
Interested in more recipes that can be made in the Instant Pot or slow cooker? Check out this Easy Salsa Chicken!
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