So I have some polenta, now what?

I boiled it with water, some salt, and butter. It tastes fine, sort of can be a mashed potatoes substitute. But other than that, I’ve got nothing. What does it pair well with? What can I make it into? The mind boggles…

Cheese! Garlic! Meat! The mind boggles some delicious things.

My go-to is garlic cheese grits (they’re grits when they’re white and polenta when they’re yellow). Salt, pepper, a bit of butter, garlic powder, and raw milk white cheddar or bleu cheese. Stir the cheese in about a minute before the grits are finished cooking until the cheese is fully blended. Easiest to just cut slices and break it up with your hands (if you cube it the cubes tend to stick to each other).

I’ve never tried polenta. How different is it from grits in texture and in taste?

I use polenta as a semi substitute for pasta. Some dishes, such as chicken caccatori taste good served on polenta instead of noodles. I also may cook some onions, peppers, and sausage and serve on top. If I don’t feel like sausage I’ll make a mushroom tomato mixture and serve that. Just this weekend I made some (it cooks easily in the microwave) and used as a base with vegetables.

Polenta, a smear of Ferma Sweet Pimento Paste (Portugese pureed red pepper paste/spread that comes in a jar and is also available in spicy hot) and some Mozzarella cheese under the broiler or even in the microwave, until the cheese is melty.

Sausage and onions and bell peppers cooked until the onions start to caramelize. Serve that on top of the Polenta. Yum.

And the next morning, take the leftovers (which will have firmed up), cut into slices, pan-fry with a little butter or olive oil until browned, and top with a fried egg.

Pan-fry slices, top with carmelized onion and gorgonzola.

Like others have suggested, let it solidify, slice it and pan fry it as a base for other foods. It is excellent for that as it can be made fairly neutral in flavor so it soaks up the flavors of what you top it with. It is great topped with shrimp scampi - the buttery garlicy shrimps work beautifully. You could also use the classic buttery garlicy excargots, or any other sauced seafoods.

My mother makes it in the water in which she’s boiled white asparagus, as one of her go-to recipes for unstable tummies. Those whose tummy is stable get diced asparagus in it, the sick person doesn’t.

Or fry up some bacon, fry the polenta in the bacon fat, drizzle with maple syrup, THEN top with a fried egg and bacon on the side.

Even better if you substitute thin-sliced pancetta for the bacon.

My favorite easy one:

Saute a can of good diced tomatoes with garlic and onion. Pour over polenta. Top with a layer of mozzarella and parmesan. Bake. Serve with spinach sauteed with more garlic and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

If you want to get fancy, you cook the polenta from scratch and put the layer of tomato between two layers of molten polenta and then bake it.

Okay, now I have to make this soon.

I’m excited to try some of you guys’ suggestions! But one thing bugs me, mine kind of solidified pretty quick. When I cooked it, I did it in a shallow pan with that barely covered the amount I put in. I kept having to add water over and over to it because it was just sucking the liquid dry. And even after I took it off the heat, it started to clump together pretty quickly. It still tasted fine, but was it supposed to congeal that fast? Am I supposed to add in so much water that it stays like a mashed potato for a while?

I don’t remember the proportions, but the times I’ve cooked it I started with what seemed like a vast amount of water and then added the polenta in a slow stream when it boiled.

It usually did start to solidify pretty fast. I think there are a number of different varieties of polenta, and some cook faster than others.

this is how I make it, too. And you have to whisk it constantly while you add the polenta to the water to prevent lumps. Also, be ready to move it off the heat when it starts to burble, because if you get boiling hot polenta on you, it STICKS while it continues to burn. The stuff is basically delicious Italian napalm.

After it solidifies, you can always add liquid and microwave it, stirring occasionally, until it returns to a more flowy, mashed-potato-like texture. Leftover polenta in my house always gets sliced and fried too fast for that, though.

Switch to a taller, narrower saucepan – for one thing, it’ll lessen the chance of splashing while you whisk it. And yeah, it takes a lot of liquid.

Polenta is one of those things that is really great right out of the pot, but after a few minutes it can taste very ordinary. As mentioned, use a taller pot. I get the packaged stuff, and you really have to keep stirring it constantly. Make sure everything else is ready before the polenta is.

Don’t fight the fact that it solidifies fast. Just use it differently once it does.

I’ve only bought it already prepared and firm in a sausage-like tube. I slice it and grill it with Italian sausage, peppers, and onions.