Braised collard greens with chicken sausage over polenta is a healthful yet fulfilling meal. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

Braised collard greens with chicken sausage over polenta is a healthful yet fulfilling meal. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

This dish marries Southern charm and Italian flavors

Braised collards with tomato and chicken over polenta is a comforting dish that bridges two worlds.

This recipe is my riff on one from Virginia Willis’ new book, “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), in which she explores Southern favorites through the lens of the incredible cultural diversity of the region.

That global influence explains how tomatoes and a rind of Parmesan cheese made their way into her braised collard greens. Her recipe could be dubbed a literal melting pot, except rather than cooking her greens long enough to “melt” them, in a more modern style she braises them until just tender.

We prepared them together when she was a guest on my Facebook Live feed, and while we prepared the dish together we bandied about many possible variations on her mouthwatering recipe. One that stuck in my head was the idea of turning it into a main course by adding Italian sausage and serving it over polenta.

Because polenta and grits are both cornmeal porridges, it seemed a fun and tasty way to take the Italian-Southern food connection a bit further. So I went for it, and this recipe is the result: A comforting, richly savory stew with a heap of healthful greens and enough lean poultry sausage to ratchet up its satiety factor as a main dish. Served over polenta, it makes a fulfilling meal that brings together a world of wonderful flavors.

Braised collards with tomato and chicken over polenta

The braised vegetables and sausage mixture can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

10 ounces uncooked sweet Italian-style poultry sausage link, casing removed

1 medium sweet onion, sliced into half moons

6 cloves garlic, smashed

28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes, preferably no-salt-added, with their juices

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated (½ cup), for serving

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

One 16-ounce bag chopped collard greens OR one 1¼-pound bunch collard greens, stems removed, washed well and coarsely chopped (8 cups)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1½ cups uncooked polenta

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage in pinches; cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking it up with a spoon into smaller pieces, until it is well browned.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until it is fragrant, then add the tomatoes one at a time, squeezing each one with your hand to break it up as you add it to the pot along with any juices in the can. (Alternatively, you can put the tomatoes into the pot and use a potato masher to break them up.)

Add the broth, Parm rind and crushed red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage and the collard greens; increase the heat once more to high just long enough to return the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the greens are just tender. Taste, and season with salt and black pepper, as needed. Remove from the heat; cover to keep warm until the polenta is ready, or refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Cook the polenta according to the package directions, to a soft and porridge-like consistency.

Divide the polenta among serving bowls, top with the braised collards mixture and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve hot.

Makes eight servings. Nutrition per serving: 290 calories, 14 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 490 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

Based on a recipe from “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South,” by Virginia Willis.

Talk to us

More in Life

This image provided by Higgins Design Studio shows an open Murphy bed. (Mentis Photography/Higgins Design Studio via AP)
Pandemic-era design solution from the past: the Murphy bed

The beds that emerge from a wall to instantly transform a living room into a bedroom date from more than a century ago.

R.J. Whitlow, co-owner of 5 Rights Brewery, has recently expanded to the neighboring shop, formerly Carr's Hardware. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
County craft breweries’ past lives: hardware store, jail

Most breweries in Snohomish County operate in spaces that formerly housed something far different — from boat builders to banks.

Red apples with leaves isolated over white background. Gala apple. Top view
Everything you never wanted to know about fruit tree pollination

If your trees are blooming and not setting fruit, the most likely culprit is poor pollination.

Cryptomeria japonica “Sekkan-sugi”
Great Plant Pick: Cryptomeria japonica “Sekkan-sugi”

If you love golden foliage, the golden Japanese cedar is for you. When planted against a dark green backdrop, it shines like a beacon.

Moving eyes add interest to an antique clock. This blinking-owl clock sold for $1,900 at a Morford's auction in 2021.
These antique clocks have shifty eyes that move with time

More modern moving-eye clocks include the Kit-Cat clock, a fixture in nurseries since 1932.

Heroes.jpg: Characters in the fantasy world in “She Kills Monsters” at Red Curtain Arts Center, running Jan. 28-Feb. 13, include (front row) Erin Smith as Lilith, Katelynn Carlson as Kaliope; (middle row) Marina Pierce as Tillius, Lucy Johnson as Agnes; (back row) Daniel Hanlon as Orcus.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Dungeons & Dragons collides with reality in “She Kills Monsters” at Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville.

Caption: Stay-at-home parents work up to 126 hours a week. Their labor is valuable even without a paycheck.
A mother’s time is not ‘free’ — and they put in 126-hour workweeks

If you were to pay a stay-at-home mom or dad for their time, it would cost nearly $200,000 a year.

Linda Miller Nicholson from Fall City, Washington, holds up rainbow pasta she just made in the commercial kitchen at her Fall City home, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021.  The rainbow wall behind her is in her backyard. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle TImes/TNS)
This King County woman’s rainbow pasta signals her values

Linda Miller Nicholson sculpts colorful noodles that reflect her personality and pro-LGBTQ+ pride.

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Most Read