My Daddy Called It Cornmeal Mush

Butternut squash polenta with sausage and onions.  YUMMY!

My Daddy would sometimes make cornmeal mush as he called it. I believe he just boiled plain old cornmeal so that it was thick.  I think it was for breakfast with butter on it much the same way we would eat grits.  Or maybe sometimes we would put sugar and milk on it.  At any rate, I'm sure my Daddy never heard of polenta nor butternut squash for that matter. (We only knew yellow crookneck squash when I was growing up.)

But I've been introduced to polenta in the last year or two, and being a fan of anything with butternut squash I found this recipe in the NY Times hard to pass up.  It's a nice blend of the savory polenta with the sweet butternut squash, and the sausage and onions are a perfect topping---not to mention the rosemary which adds a nice flavor.


  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup fine polenta (not quick (cooking) (I used the coarse polenta and cooked a little longer and added a little more water.)
  • 5 ounces seeded and peeled butternut squash, coarsely grated (1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  Black pepper, as needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 1 ½ pounds sweet or hot Italian pork sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 teaspoons minced rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • 2 small onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
  •  Rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine 4 1/2 cups water, the salt and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in polenta. Stir in squash. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until polenta and squash are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick while cooking, add a little more water to the pot. Stir in butter and black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  2. Adding butternut squash to polenta. 

  3. While polenta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, rosemary and fennel seeds if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is golden and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (Do this in batches if necessary, adding oil if the pan looks dry.) Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  4. Cooking sausage and onions with rosemary. 
  5. Add more oil to the skillet if it looks dry, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Return sausage to pan and stir to heat through. Spoon polenta into bowls and top with sausage and onion, Garnish with rosemary if you like. 
  6. Place polenta in bowl. 

Top with sausages and onions and enjoy. 

This is a recipe you should try!

Here's a link to an interesting article on the history of polenta.

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