Friday, June 25, 2021

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Red Peppers

polenta and red pepper strips

Polenta is a simple creamy side dish made from plain old corn grits.

corn grits

Corn grits are popular in Northern Italy as a savory side dish or in the American South as a breakfast cereal sometimes sweetened with honey.

I hadn't cooked polenta for a long time, so I had forgotten how easy it is to make and how tasty and versatile it can be as a side dish. 

Although the basic polenta recipe is bland, it can be made with a flavorful vegetable broth and perked up with spices and other condiments.

In the past, I've made a rich and delicious Polenta and Eggplant Stew Appetizer  (link to recipe and post). The stew is made with interesting ingredients including white wine. I used cookie cutters to cut the polenta into individual appetizer portions.

I've also made in the past a pea and fresh corn polenta mold (recipe) link) that was quick and easy and molds in 10 minutes. Perfect summer side dish eaten hot or room temperature.
Polenta, peas, and corn

I actually posted these recipes over 10 years ago and probably haven't made polenta since then. Truthfully, I just forgot about it because I was following a lower carb diet. 

Now that I eat carbs again (following McDougall Starch Solution Diet) (affiliate link to the book) and having great success losing and now maintaining my weight by eating whole food healthy carbs but lowering oil and fat, I'm back to eating polenta. 

It makes a great quick and easy side dish, and as you can see from my photos- it can be topped with a variety of toppings.  I cooked mine in broth and then topped it with fire roasted red pepper strips packed in water from a jar. You could also top with a chunky salsa.

Polenta with roasted red peppers
Polenta will take on the shape of whatever bowl or pie plate you use

What is the difference between Italian polenta and Southern grits ?
 I recently learned the difference on a blog called, Trendgredient by Alea - "a mom, a small business owner, and a food enthusiast" who has wonderful recipes on her blog.  She is Southern and explains all about the difference between Southern made grits and polenta- they truthfully look similar- but they are not the same...

2 cups of flavorful vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 cup of corn grits
1 small jar of fire roasted red peppers OR 
1 cup of chunky salsa 

Bring the broth and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and then slowly add the grits and stir consistently until all liquid is absorbed for about 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into a small  glass serving bowl and allow to set at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Invert the bowl onto a plate. Top with roasted red peppers or chunky salsa.
Basic polenta

1. This recipe serves 4-6 for a side dish. If you want to feed more, double the recipe.
2. Polenta and Eggplant Stew Appetizer is also delicious as a side dish.

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  1. I don’t remember ever eating polenta. I will try it.

  2. Wow. What a great idea to combine polenta with other veggies. All sound good to me.

  3. Interesting how the Italians adopted so many New-World vegetables, like the corn and peppers in your dish. You mentioned having eaten it often around a decade ago -- as I recall, it was very popular in high-end restaurants for a while and then replaced by some other popular dish.

    Before New-World corn took over, the Italians (and others) made polenta out of barley or various other Old-World grains. The really traditional polenta was cooked for an hour while being stirred all the time -- something that only worked in a kitchen with servants. Now they steam it for an hour after the initial boiling step.

    best... mae at

    1. A few years ago I went on a kick to discover how many stovetop dishes could just as well be cooked in the oven. I like low and slow, but don't care to stand at a hot stove stirring for long periods of time. I found that I could combine the water, cornmeal and whatever other "usual" ingredients and then place in a Corning Ware casserole dish with a lid into the oven at 220°F, stir after one hour or so and then let it continue to low-bake for a couple to few more hours (depending on the size and shallowness of the casserole dish) -- but overcooking was never a worry, and the polenta comes out perfect every time.

  4. Many thanks for sharing these recipe ideas.

    All the best Jan

  5. Oh, your pictures are just gorgeous! You put so much thought -- and color! -- into your backgrounds, and the effect is really eye-catching. What's more, the dishes sound delicious. And is that a Bob's package I spy? He's a staple in our household! :)

  6. I've never been any good at making polenta. Maybe this'll get me turned around. I love roasted red peppers in any context!

  7. I love polenta!! is a dish that I always make in winter time....your looks delicious!!......Abrazotes, Marcela

  8. I'm not sure if I've ever had polenta ... does it taste like corn grits? or just more bland? glad you spiced it up.

  9. I truly love polenta. In India we used to make something savory with semolina and after going gluten free I use polenta for that.

  10. We like both polenta and (southern-style) grits. We particularly like polenta for company -- we use the oven method of making it, so there's no fuss involved, and it makes a great base for so many different dishes (stews, grilled meat, etc). Such a fun post -- thanks.

  11. Creamy polenta looks great! Very new recipe for us. Thanks for the recipe,


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