Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal made from yellow or white corn.
It can be eaten hot as a porridge with cheese, butter, vegetables, or meat sauce or allowed to set into a loaf that can then be baked or fried.
The flavor of polenta varies by ingredients used, preparation and recipe.
Varieties include “polenta taragna” (cornmeal and buckwheat) or “polenta integrale” (cornmeal and whole-grain), the latter having the hearty consistency of a dense, coarse meal that can be cut into shapes and served as a savory side dish.
Polenta is a staple food in North American and Northern Italian countries.
It is sometimes eaten with sweet or salty toppings instead of vegetables or meat sauce.
It can be found served in various entrées, side dishes, desserts, and pasta-based dishes.
Since it is easy to prepare and inexpensive, polenta can be used as a filler in many dishes.
In this article, we will explore the various flavor and tastes of polenta, what to serve with it, and the eight best side dishes to go along with it.
Why Consider Serving Side Dishes for Polenta?
Have you ever been to a restaurant where the waitress asks if you want your pasta or polenta with butter and cheese? Your answer will likely be “yes,” but there is a much tastier alternative if you’re anything like me.
Many chefs consider polenta – a dish made from coarsely ground cornmeal – to be a delicacy.
Polenta has a distinct texture and an earthy flavor, making it a perfect accompaniment to sweeter meals.
However, polenta doesn’t have to be limited to being served as a side dish.
More adventurous chefs have been experimenting with making this traditional cuisine stand on its own as a main course.
When considering what to serve with your polenta, it’s important to remember that the dish itself is both sweet and savory.
The sweeter side of this meal lies mostly in its texture, which, while being coarsely ground cornmeal, still retains a creamy consistency.
Thus far, chefs have been pairing polenta with a wide range of main courses, most of which are musically flavored.
However, polenta is a match made in heaven when served with fish or vegetables, making it the perfect partner for dinners that may not have been caught or grown by yourself.
One of the simplest tricks to add variety to your polenta meal is to add different spices and herbs.
What to Serve with Polenta? 8 BEST Side Dishes
So, if you’re wondering what to serve with polenta, here are eight options that will ensure your dinner is a hit:
1 – Zucchini Ribbons
The zingy flavors in these zucchini ribbons will wake up your taste buds.
It is super-quick and easy to prepare, which makes it great for busy school nights.
The colors are also vibrant, making it a beautiful dish that your kids may enjoy eating.
Slice zucchini into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Toss the ribbons with some olive oil and lemon juice.
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and fresh parsley for that extra flavor boost.
Once you’ve added the seasonings, top with toasted almond slices and pine nuts.
This side dish is perfect if you’re looking for something light to serve alongside your polenta-based main dish.
2 – Green Salad with Creamy Dressing
A salad is a great side dish for your dinner, and we love this creamy dressing.
If you’re looking for a healthy side that’s also easy to make; then this is the perfect recipe for you.
This green salad with creamy dressing can be made in just 15 minutes and perfectly complement your main dish.
If you want an even more delicious meal, consider adding some fruit to the salad – such as apples or oranges – as these yummy ingredients will also complement the flavor of your polenta.
The creamy dressing uses Greek yogurt, which is a great substitute for mayonnaise.
To make the dressing, whisk the Greek yogurt with some lemon juice until smooth—season with salt and pepper.
Feel free to add dried herbs, such as basil or thyme, to liven up the flavors.
3 – Green Beans with Garlic and Almonds
Not only will green beans be a perfect addition to your polenta meal, but they’re also eco-friendly.
This dish is easy to make and will add a bit of crunch to your meal.
The garlic flavor in this side dish makes it extra special – the more you add, the better it tastes.
First, blanch the green beans by boiling them for a few minutes.
Once they’ve softened, drain and set aside.
Then heat some olive oil in a pan and fry some minced garlic until fragrant.
Add the green beans to the pan and let them sauté with the garlic for a few minutes before adding salt and pepper to taste.
The almonds add a crunchy texture that will be a great contrast to the soft polenta.
This green bean recipe is easy enough for beginner chefs and will impress even the most experienced.
4 – Parmesan Herb Potatoes
Potatoes are an amazing side dish to any meal, especially with polenta.
The cheesy Parmesan flavor in this recipe is so good that you’ll want to double up on servings.
This also means that you can serve fewer potatoes since they’re that satisfying.
To make this incredible dish:
- Boil some small red potatoes until they’re soft enough to be pierced by a fork.
- Drain the potatoes, place them back in the pot, and add some salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried basil, and dried oregano.
- Toss the potatoes around so that they are completely covered with seasonings.
- Heat some olive oil in a pan and pan-fry the potatoes until crispy.
- Once you’ve fried the potatoes, transfer them to a large bowl and add some grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley for that final touch.
5 – Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
The rich and creamy texture of scalloped potatoes is well-loved by many, so it’s no wonder that this dish makes a great side for polenta.
This cheesy potato recipe is easy to make and only requires six ingredients.
To start, you’ll need to slice some potatoes into a baking dish thinly.
The more uniform your slices, the better.
Then grate cheese and mix it with some fresh thyme and chives to make a delicious seasoning blend.
Top the potatoes with this mixture and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
This cheesy potato dish is simple enough for beginner chefs to make and will be a hit at any dinner party.
6 – Vegan Pâté
Pate is a great side dish to serve with polenta, especially this vegan pate.
Not only will it liven up your meal, but it’s also easy to make and requires very few ingredients.
This recipe has a delicious savory flavor that’s perfect for vegans or vegetarians.
To make this recipe, mix all the ingredients in a food processor until you get a smooth texture – kind of like hummus.
The vibrant veggies in this pate will brighten up any plate and are full of essential nutrients your body needs.
Plus, the variety of vegetables makes it fun to eat since each bite is different.
7 – Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Glaze
Not only are roasted vegetables delicious, but they’re also very easy to make.
This recipe uses Yukon gold potatoes, red pepper, sweet potato, asparagus, leeks, broccoli, shallots, carrots, and brussels sprouts along with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh oregano, fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
The addition of balsamic vinegar makes this side dish sweet and tangy simultaneously, which is a great contrast to the creamy polenta.
If you want an added kick of flavor, try roasting your veggies with different herbs – thyme, rosemary, and basil all work great.
8 – Quinoa Salad
Quinoa is a versatile ingredient that works great in salads, casseroles, risottos, and pilafs.
This recipe will be no different – quinoa makes an excellent companion to polenta.
This salad has a unique flavor because of the fresh pomegranate seeds mixed with dried cranberries.
The crunchy pistachios give the salad a great texture, while the fresh parsley adds a unique flavor.
The dressing is made from honey, orange juice, and olive oil, giving it a sweet citrusy taste that makes this dish even better.
This quinoa salad is perfect for lunch or dinner because of its rich flavor and healthy ingredients.
In conclusion, polenta is typically served as a creamy dish, so you may be wondering why it’s being paired with these side dishes.
The truth is, each of these recipes is unique in its way – some are sweet while others are savory.
This means that polenta will go well with any meal due to its neutral flavors.
These side dishes are easy to make, won’t take up too much time in the kitchen, and will leave your guests full and satisfied.