Fall is the perfect time to enjoy comforting, flavorful dishes that make the most of seasonal ingredients. One of my favorite recipes for this time of year is this Creamy Polenta Recipe. It can be made as a main course or a side dish.
What is polenta? It’s a cornmeal (or grits) porridge that hails from northern Italy, and is typically boiled, then baked or fried. This version is made with pumpkin puree and sage and cooked until thick and creamy. The sage adds a beautiful earthy flavor that we absolutely love in fall recipes.
Not only is this easy enough to whip up on a busy fall or winter weeknight, but it’s got that little something special that makes it worthy of holiday entertaining too. Possible Thanksgiving side dish? Oh, yes!
- Cornmeal Polenta: A finely ground yellow cornmeal (essentially yellow corn grits).
- Low-Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Stock: This gets absorbed by the polenta, giving it a seriously creamy texture.
- Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper, to season everything.
- Pumpkin Purée: You can use fresh pumpkin purée (use small pie pumpkins for this), but you can’t beat the simplicity of canned pumpkin. (Use any leftover pumpkin to make these Savory Pumpkin Scones!)
- Parmesan: Adds a richer flavor and texture. We love to add freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for its signature nutty taste.
- Unsalted Butter: Gotta add some butter to polenta, always!
- Egg: To mix ingredients together and add structure.
- Rosemary, Sage, or Thyme: These fresh herbs add so much flavor to the polenta.
- Pancetta: For a salty, crispy bite! You can totally substitute bacon, if you prefer.
- Neutral Oil such as canola, grapeseed, or avocado oil.
- Swiss Chard: Though any other leafy green can be used, as well. Lacinato kale is a great substitute!
- Shallot, thinly sliced: Can substitute with onion, but we love the delicate flavor of shallots.
- Garlic Cloves: Balances out the flavors and adds a slight richness.
- Lemon: The acidity helps to round out the flavors.
You’ll absolutely love the crunch and flavor from garnishing the creamy pumpkin polenta with fried sage leaves!
Equipment: A medium saucepan, a spatula or wooden spoon, 2 skillets, a slotted spoon + paper towel lined plate or bowl, and a large serving bowl.
How To Make Delicious Creamy Polenta
- Make the polenta. Cook the polenta in a saucepan with some chicken broth or stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let this cook until thick and creamy, stirring occasionally.
- Flavor the polenta. Add the pumpkin purée, lots of grated Parmesan cheese, the butter, egg, fresh herbs, remaining Kosher salt, and black pepper, stirring until there are no lumps. Remove from the heat and set aside. If you want an even creamier consistency, you can add ¼-½ cup of heavy cream.
- Heat neutral oil in a medium skillet. When hot, add pancetta, then cook until crispy on all sides, stirring occasionally. Drain this on a paper towel lined plate to remove excess grease.
- Sauté the Swiss chard. Heat the same pan over medium-high heat. Add another tablespoon of oil, if needed, then add the Swiss chard stems and sauté until tender. Add the chopped leaves and cook until just wilted, being sure to season with salt.
- Fry the sage leaves. Heat neutral oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and cook until all the surrounding bubbles have subsided. Transfer to a paper towel, then sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt. Repeat as needed.
- Garnish, then serve. Pour the pumpkin polenta into a large serving bowl, then top with Swiss chard, crispy pancetta, and fried sage leaves. Sprinkle with a bit more grated Parmesan, then serve immediately!
Yes, polenta is made from cornmeal, which is naturally gluten-free.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in a fridge for 5-7 days. To reheat, place the polenta in a sauce pot on the stove, then warm up over medium to medium-high heat. Add a splash of cream or butter to loosen the polenta to reach your desired consistency. Alternatively, you can add a little water or broth if it seems too thick.
Turn it into polenta fries!!
How To Serve
Some of our favorite fall recipes to serve alongside creamy polenta:
- Pork tenderloin
- Rotisserie chicken — it simply doesn’t get easier than a store-bought rotisserie chicken!
- Any type of meatball! We love classic ricotta meatballs with polenta, so so good!
- Pan seared duck breast — trust us, the sweet and savory of the wine sauce, the crispy skin from the duck, and the creamy polenta is a winning combo!
More polenta recipes to try!
Fall is the perfect time to cozy up with a warm, comforting meal and this easy-to-make pumpkin polenta is the perfect dish for a cool autumn evening. The result is a creamy, flavorful dish that’s sure to satisfy. So go ahead and give this pumpkin polenta a try — you won’t be disappointed!
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Creamy Pumpkin Polenta (with Canned Pumpkin!)
For the polenta
- 1 cup cornmeal polenta
- 3¼ cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tsp Kosher salt divided
- ¾ cup pumpkin purée canned
- ½ cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the Swiss Chard
- 4 oz pancetta diced
- 1 Tbsp neutral oil divided
- 1 bunch Swiss chard stems and leaves divided, stems cut into ½“ pieces, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 large shallot or 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ lemon juiced, about 2 Tbsp
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream optional
- Make the polenta. Combine 1 cup polenta, 3¼ cups chicken stock, and ½ tsp Kosher salt in a medium saucepan, then bring liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then stir occasionally until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes.
- Flavor the polenta. Stir or whisk in ¾ cup canned pumpkin purée, ½ cup grated Parmesan, 3 Tbsp butter, 1 large egg, 2 Tbsp chopped rosemary (or other fresh herb), remaining ½ tsp Kosher salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper until very well mixed and butter and cheese has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Cook the pancetta. In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tbsp neutral oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add pancetta, then cook until crispy on all sides, about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to drain onto a paper towel lined plate or bowl.
- Sauté the Swiss chard. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat. Drain off all but 2 teaspoons of grease. When hot, add the Swiss Chard stems. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the thinly sliced shallot. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes, then add the chopped Swiss chard leaves and thinly sliced garlic. Season with ½ tsp Kosher salt, then cook until the Swiss chard has wilted and cooked down, and the garlic is a light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes more. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top, stir, then taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.
- Assemble, then serve! If needed, reheat the polenta over medium heat and stir to loosen. You can add a splash of stock or heavy cream (if using) as needed. Pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sautéed Swiss chard on top, then garnish with crispy pancetta and sage leaves. Optional garnish: sprinkle with a little extra grated Parmesan. Serve immediately!
- Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 5-7 days.
- To reheat: warm the polenta in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat on a stove, adding a little heavy cream, butter, water, or broth if it seems too thick. We usually do a combination of multiple, just taste it and adjust as needed!
- If you have the time, this is really delicious with fried sage leaves on top! Heat 1” of neutral oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add sage leaves, a few at a time, and cook for 20-30 seconds, flipping once or twice, until all the surrounding bubbles have subsided. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel, then sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt. Repeat with remaining sage leaves.