8 Comforting Polenta Recipes for Fall
Kick off sweater weather with this simple and versatile dish.
It's almost time for the annual transition to sweater weather and other cozy hallmarks of fall, which means comfort food recipes are making their way to the forefront once again (though they never really seemed to escape our collective consciousness this year). While fresh corn may be going out of season, cornmeal is a shelf-stable grain that's available year-round and the key ingredient in comforting polenta, a simple and versatile dish that easily walks the line between sweet and savory.
Though the ingredient is often labeled as the name of the dish, polenta is essentially a porridge made from coarse to fine cornmeal, and its creamy base lends itself extremely well to hearty stews, flavorful cheeses and substantial veggies like pumpkin. It's also a delicious option for breakfast as much as it is for dinner, and it makes for a satisfying homemade snack or appetizer. Here are eight recipes for polenta dishes that span the board on versatility and pack the flavor in every bite.
Instant Pot Polenta (pictured above)
Like risotto, polenta has a reputation for being labor-intensive, requiring constant stirring over the stove to achieve the right creamy texture. We've skipped that step entirely with this recipe that takes only 10 minutes to cook in an Instant Pot and can be kept warm until ready to serve, so there's no risk of it drying out. We recommend pairing this easy polenta with another multicooker meal that's sure to become a mainstay in your arsenal: Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore.
It's easy to get this quick and satisfying meal on the table with a couple of smart shortcuts. Instead of spending time chopping vegetables on your cutting board, throw them into a food processor — the finer you chop them, the faster they'll cook in the pan. And before you get started, get a pot of milk and water to heat up on the stove while you start working on the ragu — that way the quick-cooking polenta will take less than five minutes to make from start to finish.
If you've never made homemade crackers, you're missing out! Valerie Bertinelli's polenta crackers include plenty of Parmesan cheese and fresh tarragon, which pairs perfectly with a delicious mix of wild mushrooms that become tender and roasted in the oven.
Pumpkin and polenta are a match made in heaven, but if you're already stressing about the prep work involved, you'll be happy to know there's no need to crack open any gourds with this recipe. This veggie-packed dish comes together in less time than you think, thanks to precut butternut squash, quick-cooking polenta and pumpkin puree.
Trisha Yearwood's recipe may involve a few extra steps of prep, but there's no need to be intimidated. Most of the cooking takes place in the oven with just a 10-minute babysit of the polenta on the stove. This dish is also best served at room temperature, so it's perfect finger food for an outdoor picnic in the crisp fall air.
If you're in the mood for polenta for breakfast, it doesn't get much easier than using prepared polenta from a tube. The cut rounds of polenta are added to a simmering garlic and tomato sauce in a skillet, then get topped with eggs and fontina cheese to finish cooking in the oven. Fans of this recipe agree that you won't even miss the meat in this hearty vegetarian breakfast!
Ina Garten's recipe for baked polenta is big on both flavor and presentation. Gorgeous portobello mushroom caps roast with balsamic vinegar in the oven before getting arranged in one layer over a baking dish full of cheesy polenta. A topping of Gorgonzola before baking pairs well with the meaty mushrooms.
Those with less of a sweet tooth will appreciate these cookies that are a perfect mix of sweet and salty flavors. Finely grated Parmesan cheese gives these cookies a nutty flavor, and the polenta makes them turn out crisp and golden. A combination of sanding sugar and black pepper is sprinkled over the top for a speckled finish that proves this is not your average cookie.