5ounces seeded and peeledbutternut squash, coarsely grated (1 cup)
3tablespoons unsalted butter
Black pepper, as needed
1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
1 ½pounds sweet or hot Italian pork sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2teaspoons minced rosemary
1teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
2small onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)
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.
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.
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, garnished with rosemary if you like.