Slavonian Polenta Beef Casserole with Savoy Cabbage

Casserole from Slavonia with polenta, beef, and savoy cabbage - horizontal overhead

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This mouthwatering polenta beef casserole from Slavonia is packed with hidden health benefits to endure those long winter months yet light enough to enjoy all summer too! This comfort meal is made with ground beef, cornmeal, savoy cabbage, carrots, and more! 

 

It’s easy to make ahead, healthy, and it feeds a crowd! 

 

A slice of Slavonian Polenta Beef Casserole with Savoy Cabbage

P I N this recipe N O W to save for later! 

 

NOTE: This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for photos and content.

 

POLENTA BEEF CASSEROLE aka SLAVONIAN SNEAKY CASSEROLE

 

The Slavonian sneaky casserole will have you wonder: what in the heck is a Slavonian casserole, and why is it sneaky? Slavonia is a region in Croatia (Europe) from where this recipe is originated. Hence, I’m bringing you a taste of my homeland.

 

But you’re from Bosnia, I hear you say. True, I wasn’t born in Croatia, but both countries belonged to Yugoslavia long before I was born.  For a larger part of my life, and before they separated, that was my home. I still feel equally connected to them all.

 

Slavonian casserole of polenta and beef with savoy cabbage in an oval dish straight out of the oven.

 

SNEAKY, SNEAKY…

 

Now to the second question: why is it sneaky? You’ll love this…wait for it…there is a whole head of savoy cabbage hiding in this casserole! You wouldn’t be able to find it even if you looked through the magnifier glass.

 

How awesome if you have picky eaters, like my husband. He hates cabbage and is not a fan of polenta, another ingredient in this casserole.

 

Mind you, I wasn’t trying to trick him into eating things he doesn’t like; he’s not five. But, I also didn’t disclose that information until after he finished his second plate. He liked it so!

 

If you’re turning up your nose at cabbage or polenta, humor me please and make this casserole once. It might not turn you into a cabbage or polenta lover, but you will love this casserole. I guarantee it!

 

Flatlay of a partial polenta casserole dish.

 

HERE’S WHY YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE THIS CASSEROLE:

 

  • For starters, who doesn’t like casseroles, amirite?
  • It’s the ultimate fall comfort food you can also enjoy all summer long.
  • Your picky eaters will get their vegetable intake because they won’t know they’re hidden in this casserole.
  • This casserole is easy to make.
  • It’s nourishing.
  • It’s lower in carbs than traditional pasta or rice casseroles. 
  • Polenta is gluten-free and an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and protein.
  • Polenta is low in fat, rich in Vitamin A and C, and high in beta-carotene.
  • Cabbage provides fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and B6 plus calcium, magnesium, and iron, to name a few.
  • With all those health benefits, what’s not to love?

 

Besides, the flavor combination is fantastic! Centuries ago, polenta was thought peasant food because it was plentiful and inexpensive and a good winter diet staple when other food was limited.

 

Okay, so now you’re probably thinking, uhm…so…

 

WHAT’S IN THIS POLENTA CASSEROLE?

 

Vegetables – savoy cabbage, carrot, celery, and crushed tomatoes

Protein – ground beef

Grains – cornmeal and flour 

Aromatics – onion

Seasoning – salt

Spices – nutmeg, allspice, and black pepper

Herbs – basil, parsley, and oregano

Fat – olive oil and butter

Liquid – water and red wine

Dairy – milk, butter, and parmesan cheese

 

Or, if you are a visual person like me, here are ingredients for each layer:

 

FOR THE POLENTA LAYER YOU WILL NEED:

Ingredients for the casserole polenta layer

 

FOR THE MEAT SAUCE LAYER YOU’LL NEED:

Ingredients for the casserole meat sauce layer

 

INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED FOR THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE:

Ingredients for the casserole béchamel layer.

 

And now you’re maybe thinking…

 

CAN I MAKE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE GLUTEN FREE?

 

Why yes, yes, you can! Use GF flour instead of all-purpose flour or cornstarch (for Americans, cornflour for the rest of the world) to make the béchamel sauce. 

 

If using cornstarch for gluten-free casserole version:

 

  1. Once the butter is melted, take the pan off the heat.
  2. Whisk in 1 tablespoon cornstarch (always use half of what the recipe calls for all-purpose flour). 
  3. Add half of the milk and whisk vigorously until you have a thickish consistency. 
  4. Put the pan back over the heat. Add the remaining milk bit by bit, stirring all the time.
  5. Cook until the sauce thickens. Season with spices. 

 

Wondering what the difference is between cornstarch, cornmeal, corn flour, and polenta? It’s all laid out for you in this corn pie recipe post. 

 

Polenta cooks fast on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, instant pot, or rice cooker, it’s economical and a great binder in casseroles, soups, scrambles, etc. 

 

Mouthwatering Polenta Beef Casserole from Slavonia is made with ground beef, #cornmeal, savoy cabbage, carrots, and more! Easy to make ahead, #nourishing, and it feeds a crowd! #casserole #polentaClick to Tweet

 

Oval baking dish with Slavonian casserole on a towel - overhead

 

HOW TO MAKE SLAVONIAN CASSEROLE WITH POLENTA?

 

*Details and the printable recipe are available at the bottom of this post.

 

  1. Make the polenta and cabbage layer – prep all the vegetables. Cook the shredded savoy cabbage in water; combine cornmeal with water. Add the wet cornmeal to the pan with cabbage; cook until the mixture thickens.
  2. Make the meat sauce – sauté the onions, carrots, and celery. Add the ground beef and seasonings and cook until meat is no longer pink. Mix in the wine and tomatoes; cook a bit longer.
  3. Make the béchamel sauce – Add the flour to melted butter and cook, constantly stirring, until the paste cooks and bubbles. Whisk in milk and continue to stir until sauce thickens — season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  4. Assemble – Pour polenta into a greased casserole dish. Add the layer of meat sauce and finish with béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley; bake.

 

Diggin into the polenta beef casserole with a serving spoon.

 

MORE POLENTA RECIPES LIKE THIS:

 

CHILEAN CORN SHEPHERD’S PIE

PARAGUAYAN CHEESE AND ONION CORNBREAD

TRADITIONAL BOSNIAN POLENTA

ITALIAN APPLE AND FIG POLENTA TORTA

 

A slice of polenta casserole on a black plate with fork.

 

This post might contain some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here for obligatory boring legal stuff.

 

ESSENTIALS

for Polenta Beef Casserole


 

 

MAKING THIS RECIPE OR OTHERS?

Post a photo on my Facebook page, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #ALLTHATSJAS. I can’t wait to see your spin on it!

 


Casserole from Slavonia with polenta, beef, and savoy cabbage - horizontal overhead
Print Recipe

Slavonian Polenta Beef Casserole

This nourishing casserole is made with ground beef, cornmeal, savoy cabbage, carrots, and more! It's easy to make ahead and it feeds a crowd! 
 


Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Croatian
Servings: 6
Author: Jas

INGREDIENTS:

For polenta

  • 3 cups water divided
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 small head savoy cabbage, thinly shredded about 1 lbs

For meat sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 carrot coarsely grated
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon fresh or dried parsley plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh or dried basil
  • 1 pinch allspice optional
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 8 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a large saucepan bring 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add 1 small head of shredded savoy cabbage and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté 1 diced onion, 1 grated carrot, and 1 chopped celery stalk until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 pound ground beef and seasonings (1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon basil, and a pinch of allspice) and cook until meat is no longer pink. Mix in 1/2 cup dry red wine and 8oz. crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine 1 cup cornmeal with 1 cup water until all cornmeal is wet (prevents it from clumping up). Add the wet cornmeal to the pan with cabbage (do not drain the cabbage) and swiftly whisk it to combine. Immediately lower the heat and cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles, about two minutes. Don’t let it brown. Add 1 1/4 cups milk and continue to stir until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste and a dash of nutmeg.
  • Pour polenta (cooked cornmeal) into a greased casserole dish. Add the layer of meat sauce and finish with béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and some chopped fresh parsley.
  • Bake on 375 degrees Fahrenheit preheated oven for 20 minutes. Let cool before serving. Serving suggestion: serve with a cold glass of your favorite beer.

RECIPE NOTES:

  • See the post for how to make the béchamel sauce gluten free. 
  • You can easily reheat the casserole in the microwave.
  • This casserole is also freezable! 
Tried this recipe?Snap a photo and mention @all_thats_jas or tag #allthatsjas on Instagram for a chance to be featured!

NUTRITIONS:

Nutrition Facts
Slavonian Polenta Beef Casserole
Amount Per Serving
Calories 504.27 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Fat 26.97g41%
Saturated Fat 9.58g48%
Cholesterol 64.42mg21%
Sodium 1520.59mg63%
Potassium 889.76mg25%
Carbohydrates 39.75g13%
Fiber 8.88g36%
Sugar 9.45g11%
Protein 24.49g49%
Vitamin A 3608.25IU72%
Vitamin C 51.94mg63%
Calcium 259.7mg26%
Iron 3.91mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jas

publisher and creative director at All that's Jas
Jas is a cheesecake addict and the author of Balkan Comfort Food cookbook available on Amazon. You can download a free excerpt of the book when you subscribe to All that's Jas newsletter updates or purchase the full version below. To learn more about Jas visit her About page.
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42 Comment

  1. […] apples, and pecans. I have made polenta as a  side dish to accompany stews, even casseroles like Slavonian sneaky casserole. Or, cook it and pour it into a loaf pan, then refrigerate until solid. Cut into thin slices and […]

  2. Reply
    Bam's Kitchen
    October 12, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Now that is rather sneaky and I quite like that!. Always trying to get my family to eat their veggies and cabbage unless it is slaw on an insanely huge cheeseburger is not gong to get a pass. However, your recipe is so unique like I have never tried before hiding under all the layers of the meat and sauces, I don’t think my boys will even notice. Pinning, sharing, smoke signals sent! LOL Take care

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 13, 2016 at 10:57 am

      Haha, I love the smoke signals! 😀 It’s cooked together with polenta and you can’t even notice it. If you don’t like cornmeal texture, run through the whole mixture a few times with an immersion blender! XOXO

  3. Reply
    Jasna
    October 13, 2016 at 1:27 am

    Sjajno zvuce sastojci, a jos bolje izgleda na tvojim fotkama. Pozdrav za tebe Jas

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 13, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Hvala Jasna! Stvarno je ukus super a nisam bas bila sigurna da ce valjati, haha. Pozdrav i tebi iz jesenje Indiane 🙂

  4. Reply
    Ann
    October 13, 2016 at 5:39 am

    Aha! Very sneaaaky and I love it! I think I can almost see you smirking when your husband took the 2nd helping. Hehehhehe!

    I like cabbage and my kids not so much – but I’ve snuck up cabbages in their food and they did not even notice it. This gives me another alternative to stuff those good cabbages in their tummy. Any substitute for corn meal? Not that I would sub, I’m just wondering if I could get corn meal..or do you mean corn flour?

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 13, 2016 at 10:52 am

      Yeah, I couldn’t believe my eyes when he went for seconds, haha! Not sure what you could substitute cornmeal with but you should be able to find it there. It’s called maïsmeel in Dutch. And when it’s cooked it is also called polenta. โพเลนต้า in Thai 🙂
      So here, corn starch (or flour as you call it) is really fine and white just like powder sugar and used to bind or thicken sauces and in cakes. Then we have corn flour, which is yellowish and has the texture off all-purpose flour. Then there’s corn meal. You can get it in white or yellow and its texture is grainy, like sand. Hope that helps you getting the right product 🙂

  5. Reply
    Nicole
    October 17, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    This is a very unique casserole recipe! I love cabbage and polenta, so I bet I would be a fan of it. Thank you for sharing the recipe at the #HomeMattersParty this week.

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 18, 2016 at 11:07 am

      Thank you, Nicole! You won’t be disappointed, especially that you already love the main ingredients 😀

  6. Reply
    Helene
    October 18, 2016 at 9:11 am

    We really love Moussaka. And this looks similar enough that I think I have to give it a try!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 18, 2016 at 11:06 am

      Thank you, Helene! I traditionally make moussaka with layers of potatoes, beef and rice (sometimes I add eggplants too) but this one tastes different. Very yummy in its own way 🙂 Thank you for stopping in. Hope you have a blessed day!

  7. Reply
    Mary-the boondocks blog
    October 18, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Jas, I don’t know about sneaky but I can tell that it has to be delicious. I know that cabbage when cooked becomes sweet and has a really great flavor so I can see where this would be a great dish. I’ll have to try this. And of course the bechamel will just take it to another level. Yum! This has to be really great heartwarming food for the wintertime.

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 19, 2016 at 9:17 am

      It is one comfort food for sure! Thanks for stopping in, Mary! Have a wonderful day!

  8. Reply
    Angie @ ambient wares
    October 18, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    I loooove cabbage and I’m sure I’ll love this! Thanks for sharing with us at Funtastic Friday!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 19, 2016 at 9:15 am

      Thank you, Angie! You won’t regret if you make it 😀

  9. Reply
    Helen at the Lazy Gastronome
    October 19, 2016 at 10:18 am

    This looks really good!! Thanks for sharing on the What’s for Dinner linky

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 19, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Thanks for stopping in!

  10. Reply
    Keri
    October 20, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Jas, this looks awesome!! We’re cabbage eaters so I’m definitely going to try this!! Thanks for the recipe!!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 20, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Thank you, Keri! Hope your day is going great! Thanks for stopping in.

  11. Reply
    Carol, The Red Painted Cottage
    October 21, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    This looks really good, Jas! My husband and I love cabbage.

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 21, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Thank you, Carol! I hope you’ll give this recipe a try 🙂

  12. Reply
    Katrin
    October 24, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Jas, what a delicious looking casserole! We love polenta, I just make it and we add a beef sauce to it, but this would be a lovely way to have it! When I was little, my parents and I drove from Germany all the way to then Yugoslavia on summer vacation, we were in Podgora, it was the happiest family vacation we had!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 24, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Oh, wow! I like you know even more, ha! I’m so happy you have fond memories from beautiful home-country. And polenta was on our table often back in the days, with all kinds of toppings.

  13. […] a real magician when it comes to hiding veggies. I’ve snuck a whole cabbage head into this sneaky casserole and no one ever knew. The veggies are not really hidden in these southwestern egg rolls, but they […]

  14. […] If you have picky eaters, you can hide vegetables pretty much everywhere. Remember the whole cabbage head I hid from my husband? That was my favorite! And that other way I hid cauliflower from my […]

  15. […] will never trust you again. To get my cabbage-hating husband to eat it, I hid a whole head in a sneaky casserole. He loved […]

  16. Reply
    Chelsey
    October 29, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    This polenta beef casserole has got to be the definition of hearty comfort food! I love all of the rich, savory flavors you have in this recipe, and genius idea sneaking in some extra yummy veggies! My family would love this!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 2:01 pm

      Thank you, Chelsey! It is super hearty but light at the same time, if that makes sense. 🙂

  17. Reply
    Kim | Give it Some Thyme
    October 29, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    What a cozy, comforting and delicious dish! The combination of flavors with the two sauces along with the polenta sounds incredible. Got to love all that sneaky deliciousness! 🙂

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 2:05 pm

      Thank you, Kim! Cozy is the word of the season and this casserole is just that! xx

  18. Reply
    Lisa Huff
    October 29, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Wow, those layers! Gorgeous! Loving all those veggies in that sauce too. My kind of comfort food!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 2:01 pm

      It’s one of my favorites. Thanks, Lisa!

  19. Reply
    Caroline
    October 29, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    That looks so pretty and sounds deliciously comforting. I’m not sure that I’d manage to sneak the cabbage past my kids (though they’re not bad on veggies, really), but may be worth a try anyway!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks, Caroline! Trust me, it’s not even visible and you can’t taste it either. My husband was completely fooled and he hates cabbage, lol.

  20. Reply
    Deanne
    October 29, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    Wow does this look like a comfort food casserole! Perfect for our midwestern family!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      Thank you, Deanne! Us midwesterners love comfort food! 🙂

  21. Reply
    Anita
    October 29, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    I happen to love both cabbage and polenta, so this will definitely be my favorite. Now I just have to keep the secret until the haters finish eating their share. 😀

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      Yeah, don’t tell them and they’ll never know what hit them, lol.

  22. Reply
    Candice
    October 29, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    So hearty, so delicious, and love that there is a (sneaky) WHOLE head of cabbage in here! I can’t wait to make this again… it was so easy, and everyone loved it.

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you, Candice! Definitely a dish that’s on repeat at our house 🙂

  23. Reply
    Alexandra Shunk
    October 30, 2019 at 10:25 am

    You had me at bechamel sauce. It’s my FAVORITE sauce in the world so I would definitely like this Slavonian Polenta Beef Casserole! This dish reminds me of a Greek casserole called pastichio which I LOVE. Such a comforting recipe that would be perfect to make ahead for a busy school night!

    1. Reply
      Jas
      October 30, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks, Aleka! Is your pastichio the same as pastitsio – Greek pasta casserole? It has loads of bechamel sauce and it’s super delicious and substantial.

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