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Skillet Polenta with Burrata, Burst Tomatoes + Basil Oil

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Skillet Polenta with Burrata, Burst Tomatoes + Basil Oil is a comforting, rustic kind of dish you can enjoy as a vegetarian main or a side with your favorite Italian-style meals.

A skillet filled with polenta, topped with melty cheese, tomatoes and basil leaves.

Melty Burrata Over ‘Fried’ Skillet Polenta

I came across a recipe for Fried Polenta in Élisabeth Bourgeois’ cookbook Provence Cooking (yep, they eat polenta in France), and was intrigued by this method of ‘frying’ — not to be confused with deep frying or shallow frying. 

The cornmeal is toasted (or ‘fried’) in butter and olive oil BEFORE adding liquid, as you often do when making risotto. So, I searched and searched to get a better understanding, but couldn’t find another polenta recipe that starts off this way or an explanation.

Is it better? Is the result or taste different than the way I’ve been making polenta all along? Let’s find out!

A sun streaked skillet with roasted tomatoes, white cheese and basil leaves.

Ingredients for Skillet Polenta with Burrata

  • Stone ground yellow cornmeal — the main ingredient in making polenta. I like Bob’s Red Mill Organic. It can be used for cornbread or other baked goods, dusting your pizza peel, or in breading. A handy pantry staple!
  • Burrata — a velvety mixture of cheese curds and cream wrapped up in a shell of mozzarella cheese. 
  • Tomatoes — cherry or grape tomatoes. Those really sweet, vine-ripened varieties are lovely!
  • Basil oil — it takes just a few seconds to make this from scratch with olive oil, fresh basil and crushed red chili flakes.
  • The fats — a combo of basil oil and unsalted butter is used to toast the cornmeal.
  • The liquids — equal amounts of broth and milk bring flavor and richness to the polenta.
  • Flavor enhancers — smashed garlic cloves, grated parmesan, kosher salt and black pepper. 
Raw ingredients to make skillet polenta with burrata.

Steps To Make Skillet Polenta with Burrata, Burst Tomatoes + Basil Oil

  1. Make the basil oil — combine olive oil, fresh basil leaves and crushed red pepper (if you want) in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and zip it up until smooth.
  2. Roast the tomatoes — on a small sheet pan or baking dish, toss the tomatoes and smashed garlic cloves with some of the basil oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 450°F.
  3. Cook the cornmeal — in an oven proof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with some basil oil. Toast the cornmeal for 5 minutes. Slowly add the broth as you stir. Once absorbed, slowly add the milk as you stir, until it’s also absorbed. Stir in the grated parm.
  4. Melt the burrata — off heat, top the polenta with the roasted tomatoes and garlic. Tear the burrata into pieces and nestle into the tomatoes. Drizzle with additional basil oil. Broil the dish until the burrata is bubbly and beginning to brown in spots. 

Serving Skillet Polenta with Burrata

Once you remove it from the broiler, season to taste and garnish with fresh basil leaves. This is best when piping hot from the oven!

It can be served as a vegetarian main dish along with a salad or grilled or roasted veggies. As a side dish, serve it alongside grilled meats or Italian sausage, whole roasted chicken or pork loin, or even meatballs.

So, Is This Method Better?

This polenta is soft (but not creamy), sturdy and holds up well to the juicy tomatoes and melty cheese. And it tastes exactly how you’d expect, but with some toasty notes. It smells a bit like popcorn when you ‘fry’ it in the butter and olive oil.

Just for giggles, I tried it the way I’ve always made polenta, too: heat the cooking liquids, then gradually stir in the cornmeal, adding butter and a little basil oil at the end. After broiling with the tomatoes and burrata, the whole dish seemed kind of mushy and not at all as pretty as the ‘fried’ method!

The verdict? Use this reverse method for when you want to add things on top of your polenta, or even for firmer polenta that you’ll later grill or sauté. For creamy, more porridge-like polenta, make it using the standard method.

A skillet of polenta, tomatoes and burrata on a wooden table.

What to Sip With This Dish

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say…wine!

But seriously, when you head to the wine shop ask for a medium-bodied red that is good slightly chilled or a well-balanced white (that might have stone fruit notes as well as a little oak). 

Bonus points for Italian wine!

When to Make This

Picture this…it’s end of summer when the evenings start to cool enough for it be comfortable outside. Set up your outdoor table for a lovely al fresco dinner. Invite your favorite people over to hang out while the meal is prepared.

Divide and conquer — someone take on the skillet polenta inside and have a partner grill sausages and herb-infused meats outside. Meet up at the table for a family style meal. Of course, everyone has a glass of that Italian wine you snagged!

Mozzarella cheese stretching as it's pulled from the top of skillet polenta.

If You Like This Recipe, You Might Want to Check Out…

A skillet filled with polenta topped with tomatoes and melted cheese.

Skillet Polenta with Burrata, Burst Tomatoes + Basil Oil

Sip + Sanity | Linda Feller
Skillet Polenta with Burrata, Burst Tomatoes + Basil Oil is a comforting, rustic kind of dish you can enjoy as a vegetarian main or a side with your favorite Italian-style meals. | Adapted from Provence Cooking by Élisabeth Bourgeois.
Prep time.10 minutes
Cook time.25 minutes
Total time.30 minutes
Course.Main Course, Side Dish
Number of servings.6
Calories per serving.440 kcal


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, packed
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 12 ounce cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed, but left whole
  • kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
  • cups low-sodium broth, chicken or vegetable, warmed (in the microwave is fine)
  • cups milk, warmed (in the microwave is fine)
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 4 ounce burrata, remove from liquid and set aside to drain


  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • In a small food processor or blender, combine the olive oil, basil and crushed red pepper flakes (if using) until smooth.
  • Toss the tomatoes, garlic cloves and 2 tbsp of the basil oil together on a small sheet pan or baking dish. Season generously with salt + pepper. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes until the tomatoes split and begin to caramelize. Remove the pan to a trivet, then set your oven to broil. Fish out the garlic cloves and give them a rough chop for later.
  • Meanwhile, in a large oven proof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the basil oil with the butter over medium heat. Add the cornmeal and toast for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the broth as you stir. Once completely absorbed, do the same with the milk. Stir in the grated parmesan until well combined. Turn off the heat and season to taste.
  • Smooth the surface of the polenta. Spoon the tomatoes and garlic over the top. Tear the burrata in half or into quarters depending on size and distribute among the tomatoes. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of basil oil and broil until the burrata is melty and begins to brown in spots.
  • Season to taste and garnish with fresh basil leaves and additional basil oil. Serve hot!


Overall cook time is about 25 minutes if you begin the polenta while the tomatoes are roasting. Doing each step separately will result in a longer cook time.


Calories: 440kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 235mg | Potassium: 410mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 774IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 311mg | Iron: 2mg
Keywords.cheese, oven, stove top, vegetarian
Did You Make This Recipe?Be sure to share a comment below!

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