5 Unexpected Ways to Make Your Polenta Even Better: A Guide to Flavorful Variations

Polenta, the creamy Italian porridge made from coarsely ground cornmeal, is often relegated to a supporting role as a side dish or base for heavier ingredients. But this versatile dish deserves to shine on its own, and with a few creative additions, you can transform it into a flavorful and satisfying meal. Here are five unexpected ways to elevate your polenta game:

1. Sweeten it with Fruit and Honey: Start your day with a delightful twist on breakfast with this sweet polenta recipe. Fresh summer blueberries and a drizzle of honey add a touch of sweetness and a burst of freshness, making it a perfect alternative to your usual oatmeal. You can even explore using polenta in cookies or cakes for a unique and delicious treat.

2. Fortify Your Base: Instead of using plain water or milk, try experimenting with liquids that add depth and complexity to the flavor profile. Vegetable or chicken stock will infuse your polenta with savory notes, while coconut milk will lend a touch of tropical sweetness. This simple change can dramatically enhance the overall taste of your dish.

3. Top it with a Sunny-Side-Up Egg: Embrace the recent culinary trend of adding a fried egg to everything, including polenta. A perfectly cooked sunny-side-up egg adds richness and visual appeal, transforming your polenta into a satisfying and visually appealing meal. Consider pairing it with wilted escarole and olive oil for a complete and flavorful experience.

4. Grill or Broil for Crispy Perfection: Polenta’s firm texture makes it ideal for grilling, griddling, or broiling. Cut it into squares or circles and cook until beautifully browned and crispy on the edges. This technique adds a delightful textural contrast and enhances the overall flavor. For an extra touch of indulgence, top your crispy polenta squares with a savory sun-dried tomato and walnut tapenade.

5. Embrace Fresh Corn: Take advantage of the summer season and use fresh corn to create a truly exceptional polenta experience. This amazing recipe from Yottam Ottolenghi showcases the vibrant flavor of fresh corn, resulting in a creamy and delicious dish that will tantalize your taste buds.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different herbs and spices to personalize your polenta. A pinch of rosemary, thyme, or chili flakes can add a unique dimension of flavor to your dish.

With these simple yet effective tips, you can transform polenta from a humble side dish into a star of your culinary repertoire. Explore the endless possibilities of flavor combinations and textures, and discover the true potential of this versatile and delicious Italian staple.

Alternative Methods For Cooking Polenta

I experimented with a few different polenta-making techniques as part of my testing, including oven, double-boiler, and microwave techniques.

The Liquid

Aside from the specific kind of cornmeal, choosing the kind of liquid to use for the polenta may be the most important choice. I used to work for Cesare Casella, a Tuscan chef, and I used to spend about a week in the kitchen with his mother. When I asked her once about making polenta with milk, she gave me a horrified look. She insisted that you should never use milk to make polenta—you should always use water instead!

Since I’m not as devoted to tradition as she is, I’m not sure that water is the only option when making polenta. For example, milk produces a polenta that is exceptionally rich and creamy and is more of an indulgence on its own, but chicken stock gives the polenta a lot more flavor. Theyre both perfectly good options, depending on what you want.

Even though I enjoy polenta made with stock or milk, my preferred beverage is still water. First of all, it makes the polenta more neutral, allowing the flavor of the corn to be highlighted.

what is good to add to polenta for flavour

Second, polenta made with milk can often be too rich. It brings to mind another incident I had when I was employed by Cesare. His chef de cuisine at the time was a very gifted cook who had a habit of piling a lot of cream, cheese, and other heavy ingredients on everything. Cesare once took me outside and said, “Look, that guy is a very good cook, but he’s not thinking about an important part of cooking: you have to consider how food makes you feel after you finish eating, in addition to how it tastes in your mouth.” Delicious food that makes you ill isnt necessarily good food. “.

I often consider that lesson when thinking about foods like polenta. Yes, you can fill it to the brim with milk (and frequently top it off with a mountain of cheese and butter). Although it tastes good, you’ll feel pretty repulsed afterward. Most of the time, I choose water instead, which still produces incredibly creamy (but less heavy) results when the polenta is cooked correctly.

How to Make Perfect Polenta | Serious Eats


How do you make polenta more flavorful?

On occasion, I’ll add roasted chickpeas or toasted pine nuts for crunch. Otherwise, I’ll top it with a cooked veggie and a punchy sauce to make it a meal on its own: Cooked veggies are the perfect way to add hearty texture, richness, and flavor to creamy polenta.

How to jazz up polenta?

To spice things up for the adults at home, it can be fun to finish the polenta with a sprinkle of blue cheese, spiced pine nuts, or pepitas (for texture), and a drizzle of pesto, gremolata or other green herb sauces.

What can I add to polenta?

Add cheese, herbs or other favorite seasonings. Top polenta with your favorite pasta sauce. Add sautéed greens and protein of choice including meats, cheese, lentils and legumes. Make as a breakfast cereal; add nuts, seeds, dried fruits, fresh fruit, and milk of choice.

How do you make polenta less bland?

Freeze-dried corn powder might be necessary to give polenta a flavor you want in your mouth, but it still needs help texture-wise. Unless you want your polenta to evoke hardship and asceticism, you must use milk for some of the cooking liquid and stir in some butter at the end. Good extra-virgin olive oil works, too.

What can I use to make polenta?

Chicken Stock or Vegetable stock – polenta is usually made with water, but these stocks at so much more flavor. Whole milk – here’s where the creamy texture comes in. If you want to do dairy-free, just swap the milk with more stock. Parmesan cheese – for a little bit of salt and depth of flavor, plus more creaminess.

What is a good substitute for Cantaloupe?

Cantaloupe is a type of muskmelon that is available in mid to late summer. Cantaloupe should be sweet and juicy when ripe. Although their flavor profile will differ, honeydew, Persian melon, or any other muskmelon can be a substitute for cantaloupe in a recipe. Those who are allergic to muskmelons may want to opt for watermelon, mango, or papaya as a substitute. Late summer farmer’s markets are great places to find sweet high quality cantaloupe and other melons.

What is a good topping for polenta?

2. San Marzano Tomato Sauce Simple yet delicious, San Marzano tomato sauce is the perfect topping for a bowl of polenta. The key to making it taste amazing is to use high-quality ingredients – like San Marzano tomatoes which have a sweeter flavor profile than regular tomatoes.

How do you make polenta taste better?

Olive oil: Adds a subtle fruitiness and smoothness to the polenta while also helping to prevent clumping and providing a touch of richness. Onion: Sautéed until tender, the onion adds a delicate sweetness and depth of flavor, complementing the cornmeal and enhancing the overall taste profile.

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