Polenta cakes with tomato bacon jam are great for a main entree, side dish, or even appetizer. Creamy polenta is flavored with parmesan, then pan fried in olive oil till slightly crispy on the outside. This dish is then topped off with a sweet and salty tomato bacon jam and extra parmesan cheese!
I love polenta because it is such a versatile dish. It can be served hot, with fruit or honey as a breakfast dish. It can also be served chilled and topped with vegetables or a savory sauce for a side dish along with meat or pasta. You can also saute or grill it to be served as an entree or even appetizer!
🧀 Ingredient notes
- Polenta - Polenta is an Italian dish that is made from ground corn meal. It's similar to grits but is made with yellow cornmeal as opposed to white corn meal. Some grocery stores will sell prepared polenta in a tube that can be sliced and fried for a recipe like this. I like making mine from scratch as it doesn't take too much effort and ground cornmeal is typically easier to locate than premade polenta.
- Tomato Bacon Jam - This sauce is killer. Fresh tomatoes are cooked down with crispy bacon and seasoning to create a both sweet and savory jam that can be used for many dishes. This jam would be great on a charcuterie board or on fish or chicken, however it pairs extremely well with these crispy polenta cakes.
First, heat broth up in a large pot until it boils. Slowly pour in the cornmeal while whisking until it is completely combined into the broth.
Lower the heat and continue to cook while whisking until the polenta has thickened. Remove from the heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt.
Allow the polenta to cool for about 10 minutes and then pour it into a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Lay a piece of plastic wrap right on top of the polenta and then place it in the fridge to chill for a minimum of 1 hour.
While polenta is chilling, the tomato bacon jam can be prepared. Dice the bacon and onions into small pieces and mince the garlic. Cook the bacon and onions in a large pot for about 15 minutes until the onions are softened and the bacon just starts to get crispy.
Add in the tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings and stir to combine.
Allow the mixture to cook over low heat for about 45 minutes until it's thickened and reduced. Stir the mixture and mash down the tomatoes occasionally to help the tomatoes break down and incorporate into the sauce.
When the polenta is chilled, cut it into circles or squares using a cookie cutter, glass, or knife.
Cook the polenta cakes in a non-stick pan with olive oil for about 2-3 minutes on each side until browned and lightly crispy.
Top polenta cakes with tomato bacon jam and extra parmesan cheese if desired!
⭐ Top tip
Make sure to allow the polenta cakes to chill completely before cutting them out and frying them. A minimum of 1 hour is required, however 4 hours over even overnight will make it easier to cut and fry them without them falling apart.
Tomato Bacon Jam
- 12 ounces bacon
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 20 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Heat broth in a large pot over medium-high heat on the stovetop and grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with baking spray or olive oil.
- When the broth starts to boil, slowly pour in the cornmeal while whisking continuously until it is completely combined.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook while whisking until the mixture thickens, approximately 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the pot off of the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt.
- Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes and then pour it into the prepared baking dish. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the polenta and place it in the refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 1 hour while you make the tomato bacon jam.
Tomato Bacon Jam
- While polenta is chilling, dice bacon and onions into small pieces and mince garlic.
- Heat a medium pot or skillet over medium heat on the stovetop and add bacon and onions. Cook onions and bacon, while stirring frequently until the onions are softened and bacon starts to become crispy, approximately 15 minutes.
- Add in remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to cook for about 45 minutes until reduced and thickened. While the mixture is cooking, stir it occasionally and mash the tomatoes down as they softened to help them combine with the other ingredients.
- When the polenta is completely chilled, using a cookie cutter, glass, or knife, cut into smaller circles or squares.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat on the stovetop and add olive oil. Working with 2-3 pieces at a time, cook polenta cakes in the pan for 2-3 minutes on each side till browned and lightly crispy.
- Serve polenta cakes with extra parmesan cheese and tomato bacon jam.
- Vegetarian - Polenta cakes can be made with vegetable broth and without tomato bacon to make this dish vegetarian.
- Gluten free - Make sure to use cornmeal that is gluten free to ensure this dish is gluten free.
- Served warm - Instead of chilling the polenta, serve it warm with the tomato bacon jam and shredded parmesan cheese on top.
🥘 Make ahead instructions
- Polenta - Polenta can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored in fridge covered in plastic wrap. When you are ready to serve, cut the polenta in circles or squares and fry in a non-stick pan as instructed above.
- Tomato Bacon Jam - Tomato bacon jam can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in the fridge in an air tight container. Re-heat the jam in a pot on the stovetop or in the microwave and serve over polenta cakes.
🍝 More italian recipes
If you loved this recipe for polenta cakes, check out these other Italian recipes that I know you will love.
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