Polenta ‘Panini’

There it was.. staring at me from the shelf in the pharmacy… a panini maker for $10! I have never looked back!  This Polenta Panini stretches the boundaries a bit… I grilled the polenta in the press and gave it lots of fillings and sauce! I will never foget the first time I saw a ‘real’ panini display… as a matter of fact, here it is, that moment captured in time!  This was in the main square in Florence!


Right beside this….. !!



However – back to the panini.   This lunch idea came in a round about way… I was drooling over a Parmesan Polenta with Poached Egg and Spinach recipe from Un Assaggio of Food, Wine & Marriage.


So – I made the polenta according to her unique method… she lets it sit off the heat for an hour.  You can see the full method in her post.  I have to say it was the first time I have made polenta that wasn’t all dry and sticky.  Some recipes talk about stirring for 40 minutes and mine is a dry sticky ball after 12 minutes??  It is the first time I was happy with the way my polenta turned out!  (Italian Nonna advice welcome here!)

Now I have leftover polenta that went into a plastic ontainer in the fridge.  Homemade, leftover polenta may not be as sturdy as the dried-in-a-tube store bought version.  Homemade would not work on a BBQ grill but you could try it with the store bought if it is denser and drier. If I were to try it with store bought I would brush it with olive oil before grilling.

My leftovers were not a pefect tube shape… they were a bit wider ie the width of the container. Nothing to worry about there.  I had to cut it at least and inch thick to keep it from falling apart in the panini maker.  This is not a panini that you can pick up and eat like a sandwich, hence the ‘air quotes’.  But it is darn delicious!

It is kind of a riff off of eggplant parmigiana.   I took the slices of polenta and made a sandwich of fontina cheese (nice, soft, melty cheese), some leftover mushrooms that had been sautéed in balsamic vinegar the night before, some fresh red pepper rings.  You could put in whatever meat, cheese, vegetables you would use in a panini! For fillings you could use goat cheese and roasted red peppers; prosciutto and grilled eggplant, onions, sliced olives -whatever you have on hand. You could definitely slip some parmesan in there somewhere too!

I toasted the whole  affair in the panini maker and served it on a little pool of heated up,  leftover sphagetti sauce.

This is a perfect “Gotta Go”  lunch , as in – everything-in-the-fridge-gotta-go!


Polenta 'Panini'

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Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 10 mins
Servings: 2 servings


  • 4 slices chilled, pressed polenta 1" slices minimum
  • 1/2 cup leftover spaghetti sauce
  • 4 slices fontina cheese or other soft melty cheese
  • 4 fresh red pepper rings
  • 1/4 cup cooked cremini mushroom slices
  • any other sandwich type items that appeal to you
  • parsley for garnish optional


  • Slice polenta at least 1" thick.
  • Layer fillings between 2 slices of polenta.
  • Transfer on a spatula to a heated panini maker.
  • Grill until polenta is golden and filling has warmed and melted.
  • Microwave spaghetti sauce on individual plates and serve Polenta 'Paninis' on top!

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