Today I’m going to share with you how to make a traditional Italian Polenta. This is a very simple, delicious, and versatile dish. You can combine the polenta with almost everything. For those who are not familiar with Italian polenta, it is a porridge made from cornmeal. It is also called the sun from the plate.
📖 What is Polenta?
Polenta is a cornmeal mush made from cornmeal, water, and salt. It has its origins in the North of Italy. Back in the day, polenta was associated with lower classes as it is cheap to make because you will need only a few cheap ingredients for it. However, nowadays, you will find polenta in one of the best restaurants in the world.
As this is an ancient dish, you will find it in a lot of countries around the globe with different names and variations.
Let me share with you just a few of them:
In some regions of the United States, you will find Polenta as “Cornmeal mush”. In Serbia and Bulgaria, it is called “Kačamak”. In Montenegro is called “Pura”. In Macedonia, you will find it under the name of Bakrdan. In Hungary is called “Puliszka”. In Romania and the Republic of Moldova, it is named “Mamaliga” (mama-LEE-gah).
And this is only a small part of this cornmeal porridge.
Back in the day, Polenta has actually used as a peasant’s food. It was often used as a substitute for bread, but nowadays even if it’s cooked from simple and cheap ingredients, it is used largely in many fancy restaurants.
Due to its fine taste, it allows you to make very interesting combinations with other ingredients.
Polenta is extremely easy and cheap to make if we’re referring to the original recipe using only water, salt, and cornmeal. Today, we will level up the polenta and will make it creamier by adding shredded parmesan and butter. Additionally, you can replace the water with milk.
The best part about Italian polenta is that you don’t have to be an advanced cook to make a perfect creamy polenta.
As I said earlier, polenta is a versatile dish, and it can be cooked in a lot of variations.
If you want to make it grainy, then leave the cornmeal as it is. If you want it to be more smooth and creamy, then grind the cornmeal until it will obtain corn flour. (Check our article for the best cornmeal substitutes.)
Also, instead of water, you can boil the cornmeal into the milk for extra flavor. You can add butter, different cheeses, sour cream, different aromatic herbs, and so on.
You can eat it as is, served with some caramelized onions on top of the polenta. You can serve it near a vegetable stew (check our delicious Peperonata recipe), or as my favorite, serve the polenta near a stew of chicken wings.
Polenta also can be used as a quick and delicious snack.
For that, make the polenta a little denser (just add less water or more cornmeal). After that, pour it into a square pan, and let it cool down. After the polenta will cool down, it will harden and the cutting process will be a lot easier.
After that cut the polenta into slices like for french fries, and fry them a little on the tray.
I’m sure that you will get in love with that crunchy texture. You will get something between the french fries and Mexican tortilla chips. Yummy!
Just experiment with polenta to find out your favorite combination.
Continue reading if you want to make this wonderful polenta. And don’t forget to share the recipe with your friends.
🥘 Needed Ingredients:
- Milk or Water
- Butter or Olive Oil
Polenta to Water Ratio
I usually use the proportion of ¼ of cornmeal to water. That means if you will go with 1 cup of cornmeal, then, you will need 4 cups of water or milk.
👩🍳 Step-by-step Directions:
Take a pan that is deep enough and with a thick bottom to avoid burning the polenta. I used a non-stick pan to avoid that as much as possible. Pour the water into the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately, still in cold water, pour cornmeal and mix well.
Immediately after that, add salt. Keep mixing until the water starts to boil. Thus, you will avoid the formation of lumps and you will get a creamy and uniform polenta. When the water starts to boil, you will notice that the contents of the pan will start to thicken. At this point, set the fire to a minimum.
After that, add butter or olive oil.
Quick note: By using olive oil, you will get a slightly spicier taste. If you use butter, you will get a creamier taste. It depends on the result you want to achieve in the end.
Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for about 30-40 minutes.
In the end, add parmesan or other types of cheese that you prefer. You will obtain an interesting taste if you will use blue cheese. Also, keep in mind what you want to serve this polenta with and match the tastes.
Mix well and serve while the polenta is still hot. If you let it cool, the polenta will harden and take the shape of a pan.
Enjoy your meal.
🍽️ Serving Ideas:
Italian Slow Cooker Osso Buco
Liver and Onions in Slow Cooker
Best Polish Goulash (Pork Stew)
♻️ What to Do With Leftovers?
As the polenta will thicken after it will cool down, you can’t enjoy its creaminess as in the beginning when it was freshly cooked. But this doesn’t mean that you should throw away the leftovers. No, at all. I have a “secret sauce” for you. After the polenta leftovers have cooled down, you can take a knife, and cut it into slices. Then, take a pan, and fry these slices of polenta until they will obtain a nice crispy color. Now you can serve those crispy polenta fries as a delicious snack.
🤔 Answering Your Questions:
Is Polenta Healthy?
If we are referring to the original polenta recipe that was made using only cornmeal, salt, and water, then it is relatively healthy. If we will take into consideration modern recipes where it is added different cheeses, butter, and milk, we will have some more calories that we should take into account.
What Polenta is Made of?
Polenta is a corn porridge made from boiled cornmeal using only salt and water. Usually, it is made from coarsely-ground yellow corn, but you can find recipes using and the finely-grounded yellow or white corn. Additionally, you can add parmesan, and butter and replace the water with milk to make it even creamier.
What Does it Taste Like?
It has a taste of corn porridge but it is a little bit mild. As the polenta has a neutral taste, you can add different spices or other ingredients to make it exactly to your taste. Because of its neutral taste, you can serve it with almost any type of meat or fish.
Difference Between Polenta and Grits?
The main difference between those is that polenta is made from flint corn while grits are made from dent corn. As for the taste, they are almost the same because both are made from corn, the single difference will be the texture. The grits will be creamier in texture.
Does Polenta Thicken as It Cools?
Yes, as polenta cools down, it will become thicker. Because of that, it is recommended to eat while it is still hot.
📋 Recipe Card:
Creamy Polenta Recipe With Parmesan Cheese
- We will use the proportion of 1/4. That means if you will go with 1 cup of cornmeal, then, you will need 4 cups of water or milk.
- Pour the water into the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately, still in cold water, pour cornmeal and mix well.1 Cup Cornmeal, 4 Cups Water
- Add salt. Keep mixing until the water starts to boil. When the water starts to boil, set the fire to a minimum.1 teaspoon Salt
- Add the butter or olive oil.2 Tablespoons Butter
- Mix well.
- Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for about 30-40 minutes.
- In the end, add parmesan or other types of cheese that you prefer.½ cup Parmesan
- Mix well and serve while the polenta is still hot.
- Enjoy your meal.
I highly recommend reading the entire recipe to find more tips and notes about this recipe. Read Full Recipe ⇑
- For the polenta, use a water ratio of 1 cup of corneal to 4 cups of water or milk.
- If you want a more flavorful taste, the first step may consider frying a little bit of the cornmeal in a pan for about 5-7 minutes at medium heat (You will smell the fried corn).
- If you fried the cornmeal in the beginning, then you should use a deep pan to avoid hot splashes. Also, as the corneal will be hot, you will need to use hot water to avoid differences in the temperatures between the cornmeal and water.
- When you will pour the cornmeal into the pan with water, add it little by little and mix continuously to avoid forming lumps.
If you are a visual person, check our web story of how to make in a few simple steps the parmesan polenta.
This seems like such a simple and delicious recipe. Just a few ingredients and your meal is set. Will definitely be trying it this weekend.
I love how simple yet tasty this recipe is! I’m looking forward to trying it out! 🙂
Mihaela | The World is an Oyster
I have to admit that I’ve never made a creamy one, but mamaliga is always a must with sarmale:)) I love the idea and will try next!
just made this, turned out so well!!
You nailed it! My polenta was perfection. Thank you!
Hard to go wrong with this recipe and it tastes delicious.
One thing, though, I think the recipe suggests far too much time on the stove. If the liquid is close to boiling, about 10 minutes should be enough. Low heat because it might send bubbles of the mix skyward otherwise. And keep a lid on it.
Maybe I’m using a quick cook ploenta.