Today I’m going to share with you how to make a traditional Italian Polenta from 4 ingredients only. 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.
Polenta, traditionally a staple of Northern Italian cuisine, is a simple mixture of cornmeal, water, and salt. Once a common peasant food, it’s now a gourmet addition to menus worldwide. Globally, polenta appears under various names, such as “Cornmeal mush” in the U.S., “Kačamak” in Serbia and Bulgaria, “Pura” in Montenegro, “Bakrdan” in Macedonia, “Puliszka” in Hungary, and “Mamaliga” in Romania and Moldova.
Today, we enhance basic polenta by incorporating parmesan and butter for creaminess, with the option to use milk instead of water for added richness. This dish’s simplicity allows even novice cooks to achieve a creamy texture, with the option to grind the cornmeal finer for smoothness or to boil it in milk.
Polenta is adaptable to many dishes, serving as a side to vegetables or meats, like a chicken wing stew, or on its own with toppings such as caramelized onions. For a snack, thicker polenta can be cut into slices and fried for a crunchy treat.
Experiment with polenta to discover your preferred flavors and textures, and share your favorite recipes with 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:
♻️ What to Do With Leftovers?
As the polenta thickens after it cools 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:
Easy 4-ingredient Parmesan Polenta
- 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.