Do as they do in northern Italy and make polenta the star of your next gathering.
While we primarily think of pasta and pizza as Italy's premiere starches, the north of Italy has a rich history with polenta: aka, Italian cornmeal. It has a lot going for it: it's inexpensive (just 1 1/4 cups cooked with liquid can feed a family), it's versatile, and frankly? It's delicious.
This simple dish can play host to a multitude of toppings for any season. Top it with braised meats and rich ragus in the colder months, or load it up with grilled or marinated veggies in summertime. The delicious versatility of polenta lends itself to experimentation - which is why it's such a great star for any dinner party.
How To Throw A Polenta Party
This concept is so easy, you'll fall in love with it for your next dinner party. Whip up a batch (or a double batch, depending on how many people you're feeding) of Giada's polenta recipe, and have a selection of toppings available for guests. Allow everyone to ladle the polenta into individual bowls, then allow them to mix and match from a multitude of topping options to let their creativity run wild.
Pick at least two of the following topping options for your party, in addition to condiments for guests to garnish with. Extra cheese, fresh herbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Calabrian chili paste and pesto are all great options to have available.
Simple Bolognese - Ever the crowd-pleaser, this bolognese is a staple recipe. Make ahead of time and reheat if desired. Have extra Parmesan, basil, and Calabrian chili paste available to pair with this topping.
Mushroom Ragu - All of the rich flavor, and none of the meat! Experiment with wild mushroom varieties to give this even more savory oomph. Pair with a syrupy, aged balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs.
Marinated Cherry Tomatoes - In the warmer months, this bright and flavorful topping can transform a cozy bowl of polenta into a stunning summer meal! Pair with fresh mozzarella or burrata and basil leaves.
Slow Cooker Short Rib Ragu - These melt-in-your-mouth short ribs are decadent perfection on a bowl of polenta. Be sure to serve alongside some extra Parmesan or Pecorino to sprinkle on top!
Eggplant Caponata - This vegetarian topper hits all the flavor notes: sweet, savory, a bit tangy, a bit earthy. Top with toasted pine nuts, pesto, olive oil or balsamic for a big-flavor bowl.
Pork Sausage Ragu - Bring on the Tuscan flavor with this classic pork ragu! Have extra Parm and basil on hand to sprinkle on this topping.