Italian-seasoned breadcrumb and Parmesan crusted polenta slices are quickly pan fried and topped with basil pesto for a delicious appetizer or side dish recipe.
If I was really going for alliteration I could have called this Pan Fried Parmesan Polenta with Pesto, but that seemed a little extra. What’s also extra was how many times I told my husband “OMG look at this” while I was diving into this tray of Parmesan crusted polenta slices about half a second after finishing up these pictures.
Do you do that with certain foods? Make everyone in the vicinity stop what they’re doing and take a bite/taste/spoonful of whatever it is because it’s just too good to keep to yourself? This tubed polenta recipe is that kind of food for me.
I have to say I got the idea to make this from the cashier at our local grocery store. We were chatting about the items I was buying and she asked me what this tube was. I said it was a dense cornmeal type thing you can slice called polenta.
She then asked me what I was going to do with it, in which I had no answer because it was an impulse buy. Anyway, she scanned my next item which was Parmesan and suggested I do something with that. Challenge accepted! And thank you for the idea.
…not that I ever need to be challenged to eat Parmesan, but you know. These Parmesan almond crusted pork chops with parsley pesto came to mind, so I based this recipe off of that one.
This appetizer recipe starts with an eighteen-ounce tube of polenta. It gets dipped in egg and then coated in Italian breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. I used an equal mix of breadcrumbs and Parmesan, but you can play around with the ratio if you like.
All that’s left for the polenta slice portion is oil for pan frying. I use about two tablespoons of olive oil for this part, but your preferred neutral-tasting pan frying oil works fine.
As for the pesto portion, I kept it classic with a simple basil pesto. Just five ingredients, including:
- fresh basil leaves
- pine nuts or walnuts
- garlic cloves
- olive oil
- grated Parmesan
Since pine nuts are expensive (!) you can absolutely use walnuts as they’re not a focus ingredient here. By far the most cost-effective place I’ve purchased pine nuts is Costco, but it’s no surprise if going that route that you get a lot of them. If you’re looking for other recipes to use them up, pignoli cookies are a hands-down favorite where they shine.
Quick recipe steps
I love how easy this recipe is! First slice the tubed polenta into half-inch thick slices, dip them in the egg, and then breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture. It’s less messy if you reserve one hand for dipping each slice into the egg and the other for dipping into the breadcrumb/Parmesan.
Then pan fry in multiple batches, if needed. They’ll likely need just a few minutes per side to become lovely golden-brown.
As for the pesto ingredients, they all get combined in the bowl of a food processor. For serving you can spoon the pesto sauce over top of the polenta, or you can simply serve the polenta slices alongside the bowl of pesto sauce. Adding a bowl of marinara sauce alongside the pesto is another option that would work well with the Italian flavors going on here.
- Note that I didn’t bake these, I just placed the breaded polenta on a wire rack before I pan fried them in batches. Though that does give me an idea for baked polenta…
Parmesan Crusted Polenta with Pesto
For the polenta:
- 1 18-oz tube polenta
- 1 egg plus 1 tbsp water
- 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil more if needed to pan fry
For the pesto:
- 1 cup very well packed basil leaves
- 2 tbsp pine nuts or walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- Slice polenta into slices about 1/2"-thick. There should be about ten slices.
- Add egg and water to a bowl and beat with a fork or whisk.
- Add breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan to a separate bowl and stir together.
- Dip each polenta slice in the egg, taking care to cover all sides. Lift the slice up and let any excess egg drip off back into the bowl.
- Then coat each slice with the breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture, taking care to press the breadcrumbs/Parmesan into the top, bottom, and sides of the slice.
- Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add polenta slices in a single layer with some space between them. You'll likely need to cook them in a few batches.
- Cook for a few minutes, until the bottoms are golden-brown. Flip and cook until the other side is golden-brown. Once done, remove from the skillet and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.
- To make the pesto, add basil, nuts, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Process until combined and basil leaves are in small pieces. Add oil and process until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add 3 tbsp Parmesan and process until combined.
- Spoon pesto sauce over top of polenta slices for serving, or serve it alongside as a dipping sauce.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.