Italian Sausage with Kale and Polenta

By Jennifer Farley 

I’ve written many times over the years about the importance of balancing flavor in a dish. The best recipes incorporate elements of salty, sweet, bitter, acidity and umami. Another important aspect of a dish to consider is texture. For better or worse, the texture of what we eat can greatly affect our enjoyment of food. This Italian sausage with kale and polenta has a wonderful balance of both flavor and texture. The polenta is both creamy and granular, the kale is tender yet toothsome and the sausage is crisp and caramelized on the outside for a truly satisfying meal. The recipe works with Italian, andouille or chorizo sausage; I tend to switch things up depending on my mood. I recommend blanching the kale in boiling water for 60 seconds. I know some people might prefer to simply sauté it, but I find that this step really improves the texture. It’s much more tender in the final 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.  

Prep Time: 10 minutes   

Cook Time: 45 minutes  

Total Time: 55 minutes  

Yield: 4 servings 


  • 3 cups chicken stock, either homemade or low sodium 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste 
  • ½  teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste 
  • 1 cup polenta corn grits 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (heavy cream may be substituted) 
  • 6 cups torn kale leaves 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 4 pre-cooked Italian sausage links (andouille or chorizo may be substituted) 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste


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 in the last 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 transfer to the ice bath to halt the cooking process. Drain the kale, pat dry and set aside. 

Cut the sausage into ½-inch slices. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Brown the sausage on each side for several minutes (the more caramelized the sausage, the better the flavor). 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. When the sausage is browned, remove from the pan and set aside. 

Turn the heat down to low and add the remaining 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. Reheat the polenta over low heat, stirring if necessary. Serve the sausage and kale over the polenta. 

The Gourmet Kitchen will be released by Simon & Schuster on October 25, 2016. The book is a compilation of over 100 recipes covering breakfast through dessert, showcasing Jennifer Farley’s favorites. Some have been in her family for generations, like her grandmother’s crab cakes. Farley finds inspiration everywhere, from culinary school to her travels around the world. Most of the recipes evolved through experimenting with the techniques she learned while training at L’Academie de Cuisine. The recipes are geared toward casual dinner parties, a leisurely weekend meal or a romantic dinner for two. They are everyday gourmet recipes for the home cook.