Easy Fall Dinner

It's not chilly very often in Santa Monica so when it is, we love to take advantage and throw on our Ugg boots, our down jackets and make warm and cozy dinners like this easy, rustic dish that's a go-to in our home. And now that it's a cold 60 degrees (yes, we know tomorrow will probably be 70), we are in the mood for comfort food!

What we love about this dish is what we love about Italian cuisine: quality ingredients thrown into a pan and allowed to meld together until, at the end, they take on a taste that is greater than the sum of it's parts.  It is one of the mysteries and wonders of Italian cooking.

Pork and fruit is a classic combination -- after all, what’s better than a pork tenderloin with fruit compote or a chop with a side of applesauce? We hope you enjoy this Italian riff on that delicious theme.

This recipe also happens to be adapted from a recipe by Johanne Killeen, who is one of the co-founders of our most favorite Italian restaurant in America - Al Forno. Last week, George Germon (the other co-founder and Johnanne's husband) passed away. So we are happy to make this dish in his honor.

"Roasted Sausages and Grapes with Polenta," Adapted from a recipe by Johanne Killeen

Serves 6


3 pounds sausage (we like to use a mix of Italian hot and Italian sweet)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds seedless grapes, stems removed (whichever ones are sweeter, sometimes we use red, sometimes green, sometimes both!)

3 tablespoons dry red wine

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp Extra-Virgin olive oil

2 cups polenta (not instant)

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tbsp butter

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Boil the sausages in a pot of water for 8 minutes in order to cook out the excess fat. 

3. Heat a large oven safe skillet or roasting pan on your stovetop over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the grapes, tossing to coat. Turn the heat up to moderate high and add the wine. Stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the wine has reduced by half.

4. Transfer the sausages to the pan and nestle them amongst the grapes. Roast in the oven, turning the sausages once, until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. While the sausage is cooking, start the polenta. Bring 6 cups water, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 Tbsp. Extra-Virgin olive oil to a boil in a deep, heavy pot (the "deep" part is important - polenta pops while it cooks and can cause not only a mess but a nasty burn). 

6. Add the polenta very slowly, whisking constantly to prevent lumps and immediately turn the heat down to the lowest setting and simmer gently, stirring often to prevent sticking. The polenta will become very thick. 

7. After about 20 minutes, stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove pot from heat and store covered, keeping it warm until ready to use.

8. Remove the pan of grapes and sausages from the oven and place it on top of the stove over a medium-high heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the roasting pan. Allow the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages and grapes to a serving platter.

9. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately, accompanied with the polenta. Eat immediately, preferably in front of a roaring fire. Buon appetito!