Tonight for dinner we have all manners of polenta — crispy, extra-creamy, grilled, baked — proving indisputably once and for all that polenta is a versatile, tasty, easy-to-make and impressive element to incorporate into a meal. If you’re a fan of cheese, you just found your favorite new way to enjoy it. Prefer grits? They really should have taught you this in school, but polenta and grits are more or less the same thing. Stretch out that stirring wrist so you don’t pull a carpal-hammie and get crackin’.

Recipe: April Bloomfield’s Kale Polenta

This take on polenta is a showstopper in its own right: Its striking green color is beautiful and unexpected. It’s so stunning, you can skip the board and just haul the pot to the table. The healthy dose of kale puree that colors the cornmeal adds lots of flavor, too. You taste the sweetness of the corn polenta first, then a hint of garlic and finally that green minerality of kale at the end.

A humble ingredient, elevated to royal status by Gjelina chef Travis Lett

Recipe: Rustic Corn Grits With Mushroom Sugo And Poached Egg

Look for coarse-ground, new-crop grits, either white or yellow. What matters most is your ability to find field-ripened, coarsely ground grits, which are vastly superior to commodity cornmeal. The robust corn flavor of these grits is so intense that it really needs little embellishment. Substitute any cultivated variety of mushroom you like for the wild mushrooms here. But if you do happen upon some good-looking wild fungi, by all means take advantage and use them.

Seasoned polenta fries with funky blue cheese and two custom-made dipping sauces sure beat whatever potato dish you were planning to make.

Recipe: Bacon And Sage Polenta Fries

If you’ve never tried polenta fries, then you’ve got to make this, pronto! These fries are soft and cheesy on the inside and — because they’ve been coated with semolina — crisp on the outside. The semolina also acts as a shield to stop the oil from seeping into the polenta chips and making them greasy and easy to fall apart.

polenta casserole recipe
Arguably the best form polenta can take. (Photo: Alexandra Winsby.)

Recipe: Prosciutto, Pesto And Blue Cheese Polenta Casserole

Polenta: It’s not just that soft, creamy stuff you eat all winter to stay alive. Rather than making yet another pasta dish, I often bake up a sheet of flavor-infused polenta — with fresh herbs, Parmesan rind, bacon or garlic — and use it as a substitute for noodles. This play on lasagna combines pungent blue cheese, pesto and savory caramelized onions for a creamy polenta casserole that needs nothing more than a simple salad beside it.

Photo: Ben Fink
Photo: Ben Fink

Recipe: Veal Stew With Creamy Polenta

Puerto Rico has a rich culinary history influenced by France, Spain, Africa and Taíno Native American culture. If you’re ready to cook and eat like a local, renowned San Juan chef Jose Santaella’s book, Cocina Tropical, is packed with vibrant and diverse dishes from around the country. From salt cod fritters to suckling pig, Cocina Tropical is a one-stop shop for the best cuisine Puerto Rico has to offer. When slow-cooking season hits, braise a pot of island-style veal stew.

seared polenta with tomato sauce
These polenta cakes are the products of a wonderful mother-daughter collaboration. (Photo: Sara Remington.)

Recipe: Seared Polenta With Spicy Heirloom Tomato Sauce

The polenta cooks quickly, but it needs an hour or two to cool in the fridge, so we recommend making it ahead of time or letting it cool while you cook the tomato sauce. Topped with toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley, my mom’s sauce pairs perfectly with my seared polenta cakes — making this recipe an example of our creative mother-daughter collaboration.