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Similar to Southern-style grits, traditional Italian polenta is made from dried corn and churns out rich and creamy results after simmering for a while in liquid, often water or stock. Many classic recipes feature a how-to for making polenta from scratch, but the process can be challenging to tackle on a hectic weeknight. Luckily, most grocery stores now sell prepared polenta in firm, chilled tubes, and these go-to conveniences make easy time-savers when you’re in a hurry.
Food Network Magazine relies on premade polenta to prepare its simple recipe for Polenta With Fontina and Eggs (pictured above) in only 40 minutes. After making a basic tomato sauce with garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, add sliced, seared polenta discs to the same pan, crack some eggs on top and finish with grated fontina cheese. Just a few minutes in the oven is all it takes to set the eggs and melt the cheese, delivering a hearty, one-skillet supper that the whole family will enjoy.
If you’ve never before dabbled in homemade polenta and have time to experiment, try Giada’s easy recipe for Fried Polenta, which starts with a batch of her Basic Polenta. She cooks cornmeal in water until it’s soft and creamy, then refrigerates it until firm and cuts it into sticks. Each slice is pan-fried before being showered with nutty Parmesan cheese and salt. Treat these golden-brown beauties as you would mozzarella sticks by serving them with your favorite marinara sauce for easy, delicious dunking.