Simple sardine fillets and polenta with Parmesan cheese and garlic sauce

Course Main Course
Cuisine Eastern Europe, Mediterranean
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 16 sardine fillets fresh or frozen
  • 1 tsp salt to sprinkle on fish
  • 2-3 tbsp cooking olive oil or butter

For the polenta:

  • 720 ml water
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 180 g cornmeal fine or coarse
  • 3 tbsp butter optional

For the garlic sauce:

  • 4-6 cloves garlic made into a paste
  • 75 ml water
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2-3 springs fresh herbs (dill or parsley) to garnish


  1. Start by making sure your fish fillets are ready. If fish comes from frozen, take out of the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge or placed in cold water for about 20 mins-  1 hour before cooking it. Since this it will be fried it has to be fairly dry so pat dry with kitchen towel and then salt lightly and set aside.
  2. Let's prepare the garlic sauce now which has to be ready when the fish and the polenta are already so the dish can be served hot immediately. And for this we need to peel and chop the garlic and place into the mortar with a generous pinch fa sea salt. Make this into a paste, add the water and the vinegar and it's good to go.
  3. Meanwhile start cooking the polenta, and for this you have to boil the water in a castiron or nonstick pot and add the salt. When the water begins to simmer, add slowly the cornmeal, whisking energetically to avoid lumps. The polenta will start thickening fairly quickly. You will have to keep whisking or stirring fairly often or it will form a crust which is not an issue. Stir in the butter if you choose to use it and even some shredded cheese if you dare until all melted and well incorporated.

  4. While the polenta is cooking place a nonstick frying pan on medium heat, add some oil or butter and fry the slightly salted fish fillets. Fry as many as you can fit it in the pan 4-6 at once for about 3 min on each side and then  take out on a plate. Repeat with the remainder of the fish fillets until all done.
  5. Once the polenta is ready, dish into four plates, place the pan fried sardine fillets over the soft polenta and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of garlic sauce. Tuck in and fully enjoy.
  6. Feel free to add some grated cheese over or even some 1-2 tbsp of yoghurt- a nice full fat Greek style yoghurt.

Recipe Notes

sardine and polenta with garlic and cheese
To paste the garlic I’m using a Mortar and pestle (I am using this mortar).

If you prefer your polenta to be denser, pour it into a dish, let it cool slightly for 10-15 mins and then cut/serve into chunks.

But for a softer one which is my all time favourite, you will need to serve it scooped out immediately before it has hardened and top it up with these beautiful sardine fillets perfectly panfried and a beautiful garlic sauce.

It can be a little tricky with the polenta to get it to the right texture and this is  because it really depends on the cornflour/cornmeal as some ‘swallow' more water than others. You can always juggle with the water or the cornflour amounts. 

Don't panic! If you want it in a denser texture add more flour, and if it turned out denser than your liking then add some more boiling water (from a kettle) till you get it the right texture. It is all a learning process don’t worry I don’t always get it right every time after making it for so many years but I happily juggle with either water or the flour till’s perfecto! 😉

Of course my suggestion would be if you do not like the garlic sauce then feel free to sprinkle with an indulgent amount of grated or shaved Parmesan cheese or any other cheese that you would like such a nice mature cheddar. I tell you what.... I LOVE it with feta cheese too. A lot ;-) 

Oh, I feel like dancing with joy already and yes I might need to hit the gym after so much cheese but... who cares, I’ll do whatever but cut corners/cheese amounts on this dish. No wayyyy!! ;-))

Enjoy this delicious dish with a nice seabass fillet instead of sardines or whatever fish you prefer! Make it nice and crisp and it will be heaven.😉