Polenta was a staple food in Europe long before its people were introduced to corn from America. According to Serious Eats, which offers not only a fantastic history of the corn porridge, but also the secret on how to make it just right, it was a gruel that could be made with all sorts of grains and legumes. Nowadays, of course, it's made with cornmeal. You boil it until it thickens and solidifies like a porridge and voila: polenta.
Once you make the cornmeal porridge, you can serve it as a bed for a variety of meat and veggie dishes, or let it cool so you can slice it and either grill it, bake it or sauté it. And of course, if you don't feel like making a batch from scratch, you can just buy a few pre-cooked rolls at your local grocery store.
Here are 13 recipes that show off how versatile this corn porridge is.
Baker by Nature is all about fast pizza prep and so are we. Slice up some polenta, and make a crust that is not only gluten-free but also heats up quickly. These pizza bites are perfect as an appetizer or lunch!
The Food Network featured the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for this creamy polenta that takes just 10 minutes to prepare and 25 minutes to cook on a stovetop. It's a perfect savory side, but it also makes an excellent bed for some roasted veggies or your favorite grilled meats.
Diary of a Ladybird tops polenta rounds with wilted spinach and roasted mushrooms. The best part is that you can make the polenta one to two days ahead and store it in the fridge. She recommends you try other toppings for the rounds, such as fresh pesto and a slow-roasted balsamic tomato, or grilled up some rounds to serve alongside eggs.
If you can make pizza bites, why not a whole pizza crust? Why not, indeed. Check out this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma blog. This crust won’t be firm enough to pick up, so you will have to eat your pizza with a knife and fork. Totally worth it, though.
Better in Bulk sautés some polenta rounds and tops with marinara sauce and a little Parmesan cheese. Each slice, if you follow the recipe, is just 1 Weight Watchers Point. Pack three or four slices for a perfect lunch.
Pinch of Yum goes all out with this fantastic recipe for Mexican polenta pie. It combines three dishes, really: Crockpot Carnitas, Crockpot Chalupas and Chicken Tamale Pie. Vegetarians can substitute the tender carnitas, which are bulked up in this recipe with some pinto beans, with some TVP mince or Quorn grounds or scroll down to number 11. All that really matters here is that thick corn-gritzy cheesy polenta top layer. Nom!
Fuss Free Cooking whipped up these delicious crackers. She omits salt from the recipe, since she paired the crackers with brie. But you can either add the salt to the dough or sprinkle it on after the crackers are done.
Speaking of mouthwatering appetizers, The Kitchn whipped up some polenta, let it cool, cut it into squares, covered them in Panko breadcrumbs and pan fried them. You don't even have to splurge on fresh herbs for this — dried herbs will do just nicely. The Kitchn serves these bites with a dollop of Romesco sauce but recommends you try them plain so you really savor the creamy goat cheese, thyme and chive-flecked polenta.
You only need to bake these beauties from Blogging Foods for 15 minutes. This dish is another that is perfect for lunch or served with a salad for a light dinner.
No Whey No Cow's crispy polenta bites remind us of mozzarella sticks, only healthier and, of course, vegan-friendly. It's the perfect guilt-free snack.
Girl Versus Dough wanted to make a meatless pot pie and came up with this amazing yummy monster. Three-bean chili takes the place of meat in this meatless pot pie. And that polenta crust will have omnivores shouting, "Gimme, gimme, gimme!"
Oh My Veggies swaps lasagna noodles for sliced polenta for added flavor, texture and heft. Then layer that firm polenta with mozzarella, marinara sauce and ricotta mixed with feta, roasted red peppers, spinach and kalamata olives. Drooling yet? We sure are.
Trying to cut down on bread but really craving some bruschetta? Check out this recipe from Bev Cooks, which tops slices of polenta with silky spinach pesto, cherry tomato slices and seared plump shrimp.