Polenta is the home cook’s ultimate vehicle for versatility—it’s a side, a baking ingredient, a canvas for other flavors. Check out these nine variations that argue, collectively, why your pantry should never be without a bag.
1. Eggplant and Mushroom Polenta Bake
A layer of cheesy polenta covers a stew of roasted eggplant and sautéed mushrooms in our vegetarian mash-up of pot pie and shepherd’s pie.
2. Griddled Polenta Cakes
Made with whole milk, these grilled polenta squares from Food52 are incredibly creamy and smooth—and that’s before you top them with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and honey.
3. Polenta-Crusted Tomato Bread
A crunchy loaf from Bewitching Kitchen, with yogurt, sun-dried tomatoes, and rosemary baked in. Spread slices with hummus or ricotta, or treat them as a base for prosciutto or salami.
4. Orange Polenta Cake
Ground almonds and quick-cooking polenta add texture to this classic cake from Gourmet with an orange and caramel top layer, an adaptation of a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.
5. Mushroom Ragout Over Creamy Polenta
A vegetarian recipe from Fine Cooking that’s easy to scale up for a crowd. Intensely flavored dried porcini enhance whatever fresh mushrooms happen to be in the market.
6. Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake
The coarse texture of polenta offers a nice contrast to the sweet rhubarb filling in this adaptation of a Nigel Slater recipe by Eating From the Ground Up.
7. Red Flint Polenta
Golden polenta is everywhere, but a group of farmers, millers, and chefs in Northern California have revived an old Italian variety, Floriani Red Flint corn. Mascarpone and butter make our recipe rich and mouth-watering.
8. Caramelized Cabbage on Creamy Polenta
If you’re looking for a rustic dinner option, this recipe by Paula Wolfert in Fine Cooking is it. Long-cooked cabbage with pancetta, rosemary, garlic, and white wine pairs with Asiago-flavored polenta.
9. Lemon Polenta Cookies
Serious Eats’ lemon polenta cookies have texture, sweetness, and a tangy lemon zing.
Photo credits (top to bottom): Chris Rochelle / CHOW; Food52; Bewitching Kitchen; Gourmet; Fine Cooking; Eating From the Ground Up; Chris Rochelle / CHOW; Fine Cooking; Carrie Vasios / Serious Eats
Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC's best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.