Giada De Laurentiis Proves Polenta Goes With Just About Any Meal

Polenta, that mild-in-flavor cornmeal that hails from Italy, hasn’t yet experienced the universal acceptance of other starchy sides such as mashed potatoes.

So if you’re wondering if you should just serve polenta as a porridge, here’s a plethora of serving inspiration from Italian Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Giada De Laurentiis wears a yellow dress in this photograph.
Giada De Laurentiis | Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

De Laurentiis says polenta is just like mashed potatoes

In her cookbook Everyday Italian, De Laurentiis spells out what polenta actually is.

“Polenta is cornmeal (dried ground corn) cooked in a liquid until it swells,” she writes. “It’s Italy’s version of mashed potatoes.”

And the side dish goes with anything, the chef adds, including “meats or stews, or polenta can be fried into sticks and dipped in marinara sauce, or baked and topped with all sorts of sauces; there are so many great ways to serve it. … It’s the perfect side to accompany a delicious, long-simmered stew. Or you can serve this basic recipe topped with your favorite sauce: I’m partial to bolognese.”

De Laurentiis revealed that she at times takes a shortcut with her homemade polenta, for good reason: ” … the traditional cooking method takes some muscle because you need to stir constantly for 30 to 40 minutes. In order to save time, I often use instant polenta, which is partially cooked, meaning half the work is already done for you.”

Giada De Laurentiis’ Short Rib Ragu is also delicious on a bed of creamy polenta.

The chef’s Fried Polenta recipe

De Laurentiis says in her book of her fried polenta: “Better than French Fries—and a great snack or appetizer. You can use other dipping sauces, but the simplicity of a good marinara is hard to beat here.”

Many reviewers of the Simply Giada star’s recipe praised how simple the dish is to make: “These were so good. I made them as suggested, then made a batch and sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar instead of parmesan. You can get really creative with what you serve on them or dip them in. These didn’t last long and are kinda fun to make!”

De Laurentiis’ Baked Polenta

For her Baked Polenta, the chef says she uses “instant polenta … because it works so well for my polenta party: I invite six friends over, and I cut the baked polenta into triangles and serve it with three different sauces: Simple Bolognese, Spicy Tomato Sauce, and Mushroom Ragú. My guests top the triangles with their choice of sauces, and there you have it: a new and easy way to entertain.”

Her Cheesy Polenta is a great switch from mashed potatoes

De Laurentiis says in her cookbook that her cheesy polenta is perfection when made with “the king of Italian blue cheese, Gorgonzola. It’s available in either sweet (dolce) or more tangy (piccante) versions and the choice is really up to you. If you have access to a good cheese counter, they’ll let you taste before you buy.”

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