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Mediterranean Sautéed Vegetables with Cheesy Polenta

Mediterranean sautéed vegetables with garlic, wine, thyme, and sweet red onion. Serve over a bed of creamy fontina cheese polenta and a vibrant fresh herb and feta relish on top. This is the perfect dinner for celebrating summer’s bounty with family and friends!


A white bowl of Mediterranean sautéed vegetables on a bed of polenta

Is anyone else in a bit of disbelief that it is almost May?!

It’s weird because on one hand, some days feel like spring, flowers blooming, bright sunny days, mixed with lots of fog and gloom (which is very typical for Southern California this time of year).

On the other hand, it feels like it should still be February. What happened to March and April? How is school almost over? Next thing we know the summer months are here and we are going to have more zucchini and peppers than we know what to do with.

Thankfully that’s why I’m here. I love using summer vegetables like zucchini, peppers, fresh herbs and sweet onions as soon as they show up at the farmers market. Not only are they healthy and pretty…they can also be a satisfying main course when paired with spring’s first baby potatoes and luxuriously cheesy polenta. And it’s just as delicious as you can imagine.

That being said, the veggies or polenta by themselves each make a perfect side dish for chicken, steak, or salmon.

This combo is pretty familiar if you follow the Mediterranean diet, which consists of eating mostly fruits and a rainbow of vegetables. According to the Mayo Clinic, each healthy meal emphasizes healthy fats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and a variety of vegetables.

A great way to jump into this way of eating is with delicious recipes like these Mediterranean sautéed vegetables or try my lentil barley salad, it has a tangy lemon dressing and is really good too!

✨ Need more ideas for zucchini? Make my quick and easy zucchini pasta with pine nuts and mint.

Ingredients

All the ingredients to make Mediterranean sautéed vegetables including red onion and more.

See full list of ingredients and instructions in the recipe card.

  • Polenta. Use cornmeal labeled “polenta” or “coarse ground cornmeal.” Don’t use the finely ground or medium ground cornmeal used for cornbread. If you bought that by accident, use it to make cornbread with corn, cheddar, and rosemary.
  • Fontina. Is a tangy cheese that melts easily and makes for very luscious polenta.
  • Olive oil. You will need this for sautéing the veggies as well as for the relish. If you have extra virgin olive oil, use that in the relish to give it a flavor boost.
  • Red onion. Or yellow onion.
  • Baby potatoes. Use very small potatoes so they cook quicker. If your potatoes are larger, cut them in quarters.
  • Cloves of garlic. You will need 1 for the relish and 3 for the vegetables.
  • Bell peppers. I used red bell pepper but any color would work except green, it is not sweet enough.
  • Zucchini. Or yellow squash.
  • White wine. Look for a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc or a non-oaked chardonnay.
  • Thyme. You will toss the whole thyme sprigs in with the vegetables, then pull them out right before serving.
  • Italian parsley. Or the curly leaf parsley also works.
  • Basil. Fresh fragrant basil leaves really add pesto-like vibes to the relish.
  • Red pepper flakes. For a tiny kick of heat to the relish, leave it out if you wish.
  • Kosher salt. I always use Morton kosher salt, unless otherwise noted.
  • Black pepper. Freshly ground please.
  • Lemon juice. Fresh-squeezed lemon juice adds punch to the relish and brightens up the whole dish.
  • Feta cheese. This is optional, but I love the kick of salty-tang it adds to the relish.

How To Make This Recipe

step one

Make the relish. Start with the relish. It just takes a bit of chopping but you want to have it ready to go when everything else is finished so you can serve the polenta and vegetables while they’re still hot. Don’t skip making this sauce, it really brings the whole dish together.

Mince the fresh parsley, fresh basil. Combine in a bowl with the fresh lemon juice, the 5 tablespoons of olive oil, and all the other relish ingredients. Set aside while you make the polenta and veggies.

A glass bowl with an herb relish in it and a spoon on the side.

step two

Cook the polenta. Bring water to a boil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add salt and whisk in the polenta little by little until it is smooth. Lower the heat and cook the polenta, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick and polenta is tender. Stir in the cheese until melted, cover, and set aside.

A pot of polenta with a wood spoon scooping some out

step three

Brown the onions and potatoes. Heat oil in a large skillet that has a lid over high heat. Add onions and baby potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions start to brown. Try to keep the veggies in a single layer so they brown evenly.

A frying pan with onions and potatoes in it

step four

Sauté remaining vegetables. Toss in the rest of the vegetables and season again. Once garlic start to brown, add wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.

A frying pan with potatoes, peppers, and zucchini

step five

Simmer. Add thyme and broth. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. If you’ve tried my Jamaican curried cabbage or German sweet and sour cabbage, you’ll notice the technique for sautéing the veggies is really similar: Aromatics + veggies + liquid to finish.

A pan of Mediterrenana sautéed vegetables

step six

Serve. Remove thyme sprigs and taste veggies to see if they need more salt or pepper. Give polenta a stir. The best way to rewarm it is to place over medium heat, add a little more water, and give it a stir until warm. Spoon polenta into bowls, top with veggies and drizzle relish over everything. Enjoy!

A white bowl of polenta with vegetables and a spoon on the side.

Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days. Keep polenta, veggies, and relish in separate containers.

✨ Enjoy one of these 12 summer gin cocktails with your beautiful meal! ✨

Variations and Customizations

Two bowls of polenta with Mediterranean sautéed vegetables

One of the perks of cooking at home is you can use your favorite ingredients! The veggies can easily be swapped for whatever you have on hand. Try making these Mediterranean sautéed vegetables with:

  • Cherry tomatoes. Add these along with the zucchini at the end.
  • Use Italian seasoning instead of the fresh thyme or other Mediterranean seasonings and spices like fennel, oregano, and rosemary.
  • Add extra vegetables like eggplant, mushrooms, yellow squash or any other Mediterranean veggies you love.
  • In the winter months use veggies like carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes or even chickpeas.
  • The polenta is exceptionally good, but you could skip it and serve the veggies and relish with brown rice, quinoa or risotto.

Top 5 Most Popular Mediterranean Recipes

  1. Tomato Mushroom Spaghetti
  2. Simple Blanched Broccoli with Garlic
  3. Tomato Rice Soup with Dill
  4. Lemon-Oregano Roasted Baby Potatoes
  5. Broccolini with Red Onions

A Good Way To Feel Those Mediterranean Vibes?

Make this Mediterranean vegetables recipe! When you make it, share a photo and tag me on Instagram using @katesbestrecipes so that I can see. Or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating)! Also, sign up for my weekly recipe newsletter so you never miss any new recipes.

A white bowl of Mediterranean sautéed vegetables on a bed of polenta

Mediterranean Sautéed Vegetables with Cheesy Polenta

Author: Kate
Mediterranean sautéed vegetables with garlic, wine, thyme, and sweet red onion. Serve over a bed of creamy fontina cheese polenta and a vibrant fresh herb and feta relish on top. This is the perfect dinner for celebrating summer's bounty with family and friends!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Fresh Herb and Feta Relish

Instructions

  • First, make the herb-feta relish: Mix the 1/4 cup minced parsley, the 1/3 cup minced basil, the 1 clove minced garlic, the 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, the 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and the 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes in a small bowl. Stir in the olive oil then gently stir in the feta trying not to break it up too much. You can make this up to 3 days in advance and keep covered in the refrigerator or let it sit out while you prepare the polenta and veggies.
  • For the polenta: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan with a lid over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, then slowly whisk in the 1 cup of polenta. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until polenta is creamy, thick, and tender, about 20 minutes. Add the 6 ounces shredded fontina cheese and stir until melted and combined. Cover and remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add onion and potatoes and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until starting to brown.
  • Add the 3 cloves sliced garlic, the sliced bell pepper, and chopped zucchini and season again with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Once garlic starts to brown add 1/2 cup wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the 3 thyme sprigs and 1/2 cup broth and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and season again if necessary.
  • Check to see if polenta is still warm. If not, add 1/4 or so more water and return to medium-low heat. Stir until polenta is smooth and warmed through.
  • Spoon polenta into shallow bowls, top with veggies, drizzle with herb relish and sprinkle with a few more basil leaves if you'd like.

Notes

  1. Polenta: Don’t use fine or medium-ground cornmeal to make the polenta. It will clump up immediately when added to the water and make a lumpy mess. 
  2. Make-ahead: Make the herb-feta relish up to 3 days in advance. Let sit at room temperature while you make the polenta and veggies. If the oil is still too solid when you’d like to serve, warm in the microwave for 5-10 seconds or until liquid. 
  3. Leftovers: Keep leftover polenta, veggies, and relish separate. To warm the polenta, place in a saucepan or skillet, add 1/4 cup or so water and warm, stirring constantly over medium-low heat until smooth and warmed through. 
  4. Veggies: Substitute your favorite veggies for the ones listed. Eggplant, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, would all be great. 

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