Pan-Fried Polenta with Zucchini Cream Sauce

Fried Polenta with Zucchini, Parmesan & Cream

This recipe exists solely due to happenstance, and was so unplanned that I don’t have pictures of the how-to! The previous night I had made polenta, to serve in its soft and luscious form. Having some leftover and refusing (ever) to waste anything, I grabbed a piece of parchment paper and spread out the extra polenta while it was still warm. By this point, I had an idea of how I wanted to use the unexpected extra, and came up with this effortless and delightful Pan-Fried Polenta with Zucchini Cream Sauce.

If you cook & chill the polenta the night before; you can have this remarkably easy and tasty appetizer ready in less than 30 minutes! Distinctly Italian with its use of ingredients, if you’re a stranger to the wonders of polenta, I think trying this recipe will change your mind.

Divella Polenta

While usually a hard-core purist when it comes to food & related products I’ve relaxed somewhat and will enjoy the ease of some convenience items, once they’ve proven worthy. If you think making polenta usually involves time spent constantly stirring at the stove, you’d be right. Not, however, if you use an instant product like the one pictured above. I promise that I’ve found nothing lacking in taste or texture, compared to making traditional polenta. I have, in fact, have better success with this product, and cannot recommend it enough.

This makes a fantastic, truly out of the ordinary starter to an Italian themed dinner. It’s also a good ice breaker or conversation starter when you serve something unusual, especially in these times of apparent fascination with food.

Pan-Fried Polenta with Zucchini, Parmesan & Cream

If you want to serve it for a main course, just increase the recipe – perhaps another polenta square, and more of the sauce. After much delightful experimenting, I’ve discovered that I prefer pan-fried polenta on the thin side. Using two large squares per serving I overlap them in a serving bowl, putting some sauce between, and some on top. You could call it a casual sort of ravioli, but one that’s much quicker to make.

I love the fact that in addition to this being very tasty, as well as unusual and easy to put together, it’s also a dish that embraces the “make it once, use it twice” philosophy. We’re all busy. We all need recipes that deliver on taste, and that don’t take hours to make.

Pan-Fried Polenta Squares Appetizer

Use the smallest zucchini you can find and cut them into very thin rounds of 1/16″ – using a mandoline if you have one. Cut thinly, 1 small zucchini is all you need to make two fab portions. This would also be fantastic using mushrooms in place of the zucchini, which I plan to do, soon. Buon appetito~

Pan-Fried Polenta Squares with Zucchini Cream Sauce
Serves 2
Making the polenta the night before means this can be put together in under 30 minutes. A great example of cucina povera, this unusual & tasty dish is naturally gluten free.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
  1. 4 squares cooked & chilled polenta, cut into approx 3x4” and 1/4” thick (make & cut thicker for your preference, just picture the size of large ravioli)
  2. 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1 small young zucchini, thinly sliced into 1/16” rounds
  4. 2 tablespoons finely diced onion (half of one small onion, approx.)
  5. 1/3 cup whipping cream
  6. 3 tablespoons grated parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano recommended)
  7. Pinch Kosher salt
  8. Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put a large sauté pan on medium heat - if it’s not large enough to hold all the polenta squares, cook them in two batches. When hot, add 1 tablespoon oil, and swirl it around. Add the polenta squares to cook, about 5 minutes per side until crispy, with some browning.
  2. In a smaller sauté pan on medium heat, add the 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the diced onion, a pinch of salt & pepper and cook for a few minutes, until they soften and start to caramelize.
  3. By this point you should be (carefully) flipping the polenta squares, and cooking for another 3 - 4 minutes.
  4. To the pan with the onion, add the zucchini, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until they start to soften, about 2 - 3 minutes. Add the cream, letting it cook for just a couple minutes, to reduce and thicken. Remove from heat, and stir in the most of the parmesan, leaving a bit for garnish.
  5. When the polenta squares are ready, remove them from the heat (if you’ve not done so already).
  6. Place one polenta square in each bowl and spoon over some of the sauce. Place the second polenta square, off to one side, spooning over more of the sauce. Garnish with remaining parmesan and serve.
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