Polenta Party Bites

December 30, 2008



These little gems are an easy, crowd-pleasing hors d’ oeuvre, perfect for holiday entertaining. They’re very pretty, but simple as pie to make, endlessly versatile and, while the final product looks elegant, the ingredients are very common. Whip up a batch to pair with a flute of New Year’s Eve bubbly. 

I like to make my own polenta, which is why the bites in the photo are square, but the refrigerated polenta logs from the grocery store work just fine, making a simple recipe even simpler. Bites cut from polenta logs will, of course, be rounds or half-moons instead of squares, which is fine. 

If you want to make your own polenta, here’s a good recipe. As soon as it’s done, pour the hot polenta into greased shallow, rimmed baking pans or loaf pans to set. (Ultimately you’ll want to cut it into bite size squares that are ¼ to ½ inch thick.) I like to pour it into loaf pans and refrigerate overnight. The next day I just pop it out of the pans and slice, and then cut the slices into smaller pieces.    


The toppings used here are just suggestions. The combination of cream cheese and hot pepper jelly, for example, is a classic combo favored by Southerners, but may not suit everyone. Use these ideas as a springboard for your own creations. Basically, if it tastes good, looks pretty and fits on the square, it works. Other topping choices include crumbled crisp bacon or prosciutto, goat cheese and fig jam, sharp cheddar and green olives, smoked salmon and chopped chives, even caviar and crème fraiche! 


For the squares:

Firm set polenta

Olive oil

For the toppings:

Soft goat cheese

Roasted red peppers, cut into strips

Pitted black olives

Olive tapenade

Assorted fresh herbs

Parmesan curls

Cream cheese

Hot jalapeno jelly



Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice polenta into bite size pieces, ¼ to ½ inch thick. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and place polenta bites on sheet, about ½ apart. Bake, flipping the squares half way through, until they are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, about 45 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes. Top as desired. Serve warm.

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