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

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

An easy one-mile loop near the visitor center at Seaquest State Park explores the edge of Silver Lake.
(Scott Hewitt/The Columbian)
Discover seven hidden gems not far from the super slab

Weekend trips: Next time you’re making the I-5 slog toward Oregon, check out some of these parks and preserves just off the freeway corridor.

Caption: Now’s a great time to stock up on free Covid tests available to Washington State residents at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org.
COVID-19’s behind her except for a nagging cough

But things might have been much different — in a bad way — without testing and vaccines.

The blended-families challenge requires patience, maturity

Don’t expect miracles — it can be rough going for some time. Get professional help if you need it.

Her Turo rental was repossessed with valuable items inside

When Michelle Marshall’s Turo rental gets repossessed, the car-sharing company offers her a partial refund. But what about her son’s expensive epilepsy medication? Is Turo responsible for that?

Lee Oskar and his dog Tex inside his art studio in his home on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Harmonica whiz Lee Oskar is also a pro with a paintbrush

Oskar’s music and art studios are in his Everett home. The former member of the 1970s band War is now 74, and still rocks “Low Rider.”

The 2022 WM Recycle Corps interns are part of WM’s recycling education and outreach team.
WM Recycle Corps interns return after two-year COVID slowdown

The collegiate interns are back in the community to help improve recycling habits and reduce waste.

Caption: At Flight Room in Lynnwood, aerial fitness poses like “vampire” use every muscle in your body.
Fitness takes flight at new aerial studio in Lynnwood

Jennifer Bardsley finds benefits and “silk kisses” from doing aerial yoga at Lynnwood studio.

Photo Caption: This carved shelf brought $2,500 at New Haven Auctions. Decorations and symbols associated with the Odd Fellows add to its appeal.
Odd Fellows iconography adds to this carved shelf’s value

Fun fact: The Odd Fellows is believed to have originated in medieval trade guilds, with “odd fellow” meaning someone who did odd jobs for a living.

The Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea. (Proven Winners)
3 new “pee gee” hydrangeas for gardeners to salivate over

These new shrubs boast better flower color and, in some cases, more compact forms that fit better in smaller gardens.