Basic polenta recipe

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  • Dish type
  • Side dish

This recipe is for the polenta novice. Experiment and choose your favourite accompaniment!

312 people made this

IngredientsServes: 3

  • 750ml (1 pint 5 oz) water
  • 120g (4 oz) polenta

MethodPrep:5min ›Cook:40min ›Ready in:45min

  1. Bring water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Pour in polenta steadily, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until polenta is thickened. It should come away from sides of the pan, and be able to support a spoon. This can take anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes. Pour polenta onto a wooden cutting board, let stand for a few minutes before serving.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(93)

Reviews in English (81)

by NHORAN

The instructions are not very clear and may confuse some people..."Polenta" is the finished meal..."Corn Meal" is the ingredient that is needed to make POLENTA., also I use 2 parts of cold water to 1 part of cornmeal for a thicker polenta. To diminish any concerns of lumps, just add some corn meal to cold water, stir then add it to the boiling water and stir constantly.-24 Jul 2008

by STARBUCKS-GIRL

This is the basic way to prepare polenta, which is cooked corn meal, I felt like giving it less stars b/c I was annoyed this recipe doesn't mention that. ...anyway, 3 parts water, one part cornmeal, and you have polenta. It take minutes to make before it thickens so don't be surprised based on the instructions. I like to chill mine a few hours then cut and grill it and top it with pasta sauce, grilled veggies and parm. yum!-24 Jul 2008

by laetchison

I love polenta! The only difference is my great aunt uses 2 parts cold water to every 1 part cornmeal. It makes a very firm polenta. This is the way I prefer it since I grew up with it this way. She only serves it with a red (tomato based) gravy but it is also good as a side dish to a roast with beef gravy.-24 Jul 2008


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Definitely use home made chicken or vegetable broth! It was my fist time making polenta-the first night it was pretty watery, the second night it clung together both ways were great. It's a nice food item to build from. Good for breakfast, lunch brunch, dinner.

These are the proportions we use for basic polenta, when we're not jazzing it up. We use low sodium chicken broth and a pinch of salt instead of water and the amount of salt called for. I have found no reason to bring the water to a boil before adding the cornmeal -- just whisk it in when it is room temperature and then bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook on low heat, and it does not have to be stirred constantly to be smooth and creamy.

Do you know the difference between polenta and grits? About $5 a serving. )

This is a great recipe for basic polenta, although it requires constant stirring to make it smooth and creamy. I am pairing mine with a braised lamb shank and will add parmesan at the last minute. I've found that substituting 1 cup milk for ever 1 cup of water makes it creamier, but you still need to stir constantly. Definite comfort food.

This is good old fashion comfort food. I serve with sauteed sausages, onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms. My 3 boys love it!

Polenta is always bland on its own, so after it was done cooking I stirred in some chopped pieces of bacon that I had just fried with fresh romemary. That helped a lot.

Of coures it's bland! But only in the samed way mashed potatoes are bland. Polenta is meant to be eaten with a sauce, a dark red marinara with lots of shredded parmesan. I have added garlic while cooking and that is good too. Stir in some shredded cheese while it's hot. Mold leftovers into a loaf pan, slice and fry in olive oil and top with your favorite sauce.

the recipe is bland, it need additional ingrediants to spice it up, try adding salsa, minced garlic or a veggie.

Grits by any other name are still GRITS!

Needs added instuctions: After polenta starts to thicken, use a wooden spoon to stir.


  • In a heavy stainless-steel 3-quart saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the salt and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve.
  • When the salted water is boiling, gradually add the cornmeal in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly. This is important if you pour in the cornmeal too quickly, lumps may form. When all the cornmeal has been added, lower the heat to maintain a slow simmer.
  • Cook, whisking occasionally to prevent sticking, and scraping the inside of the pot with a rubber spatula to incorporate any cornmeal that does stick. The polenta will bubble and spurt a bit.
  • If the polenta gets too thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, add a little warm water. The polenta is done when it’s very thick and creamy, with a texture that’s slightly rough but not gritty, 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the cornmeal. Taste a bit to check the texture. If it’s still gritty, add a little more water and continue cooking until the texture has softened. Stir in the butter, if using, and add more salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Mascarpone & Parmigiano Polenta: Omit butter, and gently whisk in 1/2 cup mascarpone in its place. Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Thin the polenta with up to 1/2 cup water, if you like add salt to taste. Scoop the polenta into a serving bowl, sprinkle with another 1 Tbs. of Parmigiano, and serve.

Polenta Rosa: Put 1 cup canned diced tomatoes in a fine sieve, set it over a bowl, and shake it to drain as much liquid as possible. Put the tomato liquid in a measuring cup add water to get 4 cups total liquid. Pour the liquid into a heavy stainless-steel 3-quart saucepan, and proceed with the basic recipe, omitting the butter. When the polenta is thick and creamy, set it over low heat, and whisk in 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced. Add 1/4 cup tomato paste (preferably Italian) and the canned diced tomatoes. Add 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano, and salt to taste.


Basic Polenta

Probably few things are more reminiscent of Italian home cooking than basic polenta, which is nothing more than a cornmeal porridge. In its simplest guise, it’s served in that form with butter and a hard grating cheese, or with a soft, runny cheese. Or it can be topped with a meat or mushroom sauce or a stew. But polenta can also be turned out onto a marble slab or another hard surface, allowed to become firm, then cut into squares. These pieces have endless uses, especially for antipasti. Whether fried or sautéed in olive oil, or brushed with olive oil and grilled, they become crostini di polenta, delicious crunchy “toasts.” Note that polenta must be made from polenta cornmeal. Cooked ground corn used for corn bread will not result in an edible cornmeal porridge.–Julia della Croce

What is polenta, exactly?

Polenta, a Northern Italian dish made from coarsely ground yellow corn, is marvelously versatile and delicious. A classic preparation of polenta requires just a few basic on-hand ingredients, like water or stock, butter, salt, and pepper. Similar to grits in both taste and preparation, polenta instead comes from stone-ground, dried yellow corn. Some recipes call for cornmeal, but not polenta specifically—when shopping for it, look for packages that are clearly labelled “polenta” cornmeal. It’s not as finely ground and has a better texture for serving as a side dish.


Basic Polenta Recipe

I had got this recipe when I went to Italy, did it a couple of times and forgot about it.

  • italian
  • easy
  • vegetable
  • healthy
  • cereal
  • cornmeal
  • boil
  • italian
  • italian
  • easy
  • vegetable
  • healthy
  • cereal
  • cornmeal
  • boil
  • italian

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Ingredients

How to make it

  • Bring water to a boil in a large heavy pot.
  • Add salt and reduce heat until water is simmering.
  • Take cornmeal by the handful and add to water very slowly, controlling the flow to a thin stream through your fingers.
  • To avoid lumps, stir quickly with a long handled wooden spoon while adding cornmeal.
  • If necessary, stop adding cornmeal from time to time and beat mixture
  • vigorously.
  • Cook, stirring constantly, 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Polenta will become very thick while cooking. It is done when it comes away cleanly from the sides of the pot.
  • Pour polenta into a large wooden board or a large platter.
  • Wet your hands and smooth out polenta evenly, about 2 inches thick.
  • Let cool 5 to 10 minutes or until polenta solidifies.
  • Cut cooled polenta into slices 1 inch wide and 6 inches long.
  • Place slices in individual dishes.
  • Serve hot,covered with your favorite sauce.
  • Variation: Fried Polenta (Polenta Fritta): (very good but not good if you're on diet)
  • Prepare polenta and let cool completely.
  • Cut cooled polenta into slices 2 inches wide and 6 inches long.
  • Pour oil about 1 inch deep in a large skillet.
  • Heat oil until a 1−inch cubeof bread turns golden almost immediately.
  • Fry polenta slices on both sides until light golden.
  • Drain on paper towels.
  • Serve hot.
  • It is important to insure the oil is hot enough, otherwise the polenta will absorb oil and your polenta will be greasy and unpalatable.
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Basic Polenta

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and reduce the heat to medium low. As soon as the water begins to simmer, start pouring in the cornmeal in a thin stream, very slowly while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps.

Once all the cornmeal has been added, keep the water at a simmer, and stir frequently. It should take between 25-30 minutes to fully cook the polenta. Once cooked, the polenta should pull away from the sides of the pot easily.

Soft Polenta: Use polenta directly out of the pot, topped with sauce or vegetables as desired.

Firm Polenta: Once completely cooked, pour onto a wooden board or a greased baking sheet about 2 inches thick and allow to set. Cut into squares and serve as desired.

Baked Polenta: Cut the firm polenta into slices, and place in a buttered baking dish. Add desired topping, and bake at 375 degrees F. until golden.

Grilled Polenta: Cut firm polenta into squares, brush with oil and grill lightly on both sides.

Fried Polenta: Cut the firm polenta into slices and fry in a few inches of hot oil until golden brown and crispy.


Basic Polenta Recipe

Our polenta during the cooking process, a glass of good red wine helps the 30-40 minutes pass quickly.

A great, slow cooked, pot of polenta can be transformative, while bad polenta, often made with “quick cooking” or instant corn meal, will turn you off to corn for years to come. Polenta is essentially cornmeal ground in either a fine, medium, or coarse fashion. Like most Italian dishes, the better the cornmeal you select the better the outcome. We suggest a coarse grind from a local mill who utilizes organic corn (we used Farmer Ground from Trumansburg, NY).

We find the trick to outstanding polenta is to cook it for a sufficient amount of time. Cornmeal, especially the coarse variety, needs time swell and become fully cooked (kind of like arborio rice). We always make a large batch of polenta so we can bake or fry it the next day with a different topping. Here’s our simple recipe.

Note: we do have a polenta recipe that utilizes fine cornmeal (read instant polenta) as well as a classic polenta dish from Calabria called, Frascatula.

/>A close up of the cooking process / mixture. We use a high quality organic coarse ground cornmeal with different varieties of corn, including blue. Generally, the higher quality the cornmeal the better the outcome.


MAMALIGA OR POLENTA RECIPE

Polenta is a dish made from coarsely ground cornmeal. Some water and some salt, a little bit of cooking and you&rsquore done. You have an excellent, healthy and delicious meal.

You can have mamaliga or polenta as a side dish for other dishes with sauce or it can be a meal in itself with some cheese and yogurt/creme fraiche/ sour cream on the side.

And the possibilities of making a main dish using polenta are endless. You can make casseroles, you can grill it, you can bake it, you can make cake, you can make polenta chips and so on. It goes well with any kind of meat, any kind of vegetable or dairy product.

ROMANIAN MAMALIGA RECIPE

Polenta or mamaliga is a staple in Romanian cooking. It has always been considered to be peasant food, but trust me, you will find polenta in any household in Romania, villages and cities alike.

Interesting fact I found out while reading about polenta: the reason why it became so popular in the Romanian territories is that hundreds of years ago, when the Romanians were forced to pay tribute towards the Ottoman empire there were taxes to be paid on wheat but not on corn. So the people started cultivating and eating more polenta cooked from coarsely ground cornmeal in order to be able to escape the payment of so much taxes. Clever!

The traditional Romanian polenta is of a sturdier kind, a bit different from the Italian version you might know. That is the way my grandmother cooked her basic polenta and that is how I cook it most of the times myself.

However, every now and then I like to make a softer, creamier polenta, especially when I intend to serve the polenta as a side dish for something with lots of sauce. The cooking procedure is the same, the only difference is the amount of water used.

HOW TO MAKE MAMALIGA OR POLENTA

  • I make polenta using only salted water most of the times, but if you like you can use half milk and half water or you can even cook the polenta in vegetable or chicken broth (made with organic bullion cubes).
  • Salt is very important when making polenta. Read the instructions on the polenta packet and add the amount of salt required and maybe ¼ teaspoon more than that. Reduce the amount of salt only if you are cooking the polenta in broth.

TYPES OF CORNMEAL FOR POLENTA

Fine polenta:

The cornmeal used to make polenta comes in different textures: medium or coarse. Never use fine cornmeal to make polenta, I did once &ndash it was not good.

Medium polenta:

From time to time I buy the medium polenta sold in the regular German supermarkets (which by the way is at least twice as pricy as the Turkish cornmeal). It tastes good as well and it has the advantage of being ready in only about 15 minutes.

Coarse polenta:

But I usually prefer the coarse cornmeal/polenta I can buy at the Turkish store, it is the kind I used to eat in Romania. It has a longer cooking time &ndash 40 to 50 minutes &ndash than the polenta made of medium ground cornmeal, but it doesn&rsquot matter, there is no extra work involved and I like to think that that is the original mamaliga I know from my childhood.

You decide which one you prefer, just consider the packet&rsquos instructions when you cook the polenta.

Instant and ready cooked polenta:

I have heard of instant polenta but never bought it and there is of course the ready cooked polenta, which I swear I won&rsquot buy as long as I live! My grandma would probably turn in her grave if I did!

Update 2019: I bought one packet of ready cooked polenta while on holiday in Italy. I sliced it and fry it in olive oil, then served it cheese and yogurt. It was fine, but I don&rsquot think I would buy it again. It had an weird after taste, which fresh polenta doesn&rsquot have.

NUTRITION FACTS ABOUT POLENTA

First of all: it is really satiating.

I cook only 250 g of cornmeal when I make polenta and it is always more than enough for a family of four who really loves polenta.

And there are usually some leftovers which I either eat with milk for breakfast or fry with vegetables and eggs the next day.

And yet 100 g cooked polenta only has 85 calories, I just googled that and instantly decided I will cook polenta even more often than I usually do. 🙂

Polenta is also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B6 and has no cholesterol.

So, do give polenta a try! For the next two weeks I will only post polenta recipes and I hope you will find something you would like to try.


How to Make Polenta: a Basic Italian Recipe

ratio for polenta/corn meal to water is 1:4 (in volume) makes 5 servings

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • one medium to large onion, diced
  • small bunch of rapini, washed and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups (9 oz) polenta or good quality corn meal or grits (you can put it in the blender to make it more fine or leave as is)
  • 6 cups (48 oz) water (Diamond Crystal)

Step 1

Fry the onion in the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat until translucent and just starting to brown.

Add 4 cups of water to the pot.

Step 2

Then add the chopped rapini and cook for about two minutes.

Next, add the remaining 2 cups of water to the cornmeal placed in a bowl, and stir to moisten. This technique of adding water to the dry ingredient will ensure that you will avoid lumps. However, do not add the water to the polenta until just before adding it to the pot. Add half a teaspoon of Kosher salt at this time, taste and add more as needed.

Step 3

Immediately add the wet polenta to the pot before the water comes to a boil.

Continue stirring, and cook over medium heat (it should be bubbling) for about 25 minutes. Keep scraping the bottom to make sure the polenta doesn’t stick. Be careful not to let it boil too fast or the polenta may bubble which is painful if it squirts onto your hand.

If you are using a quick cooking package, it will be ready in just a few minutes, however the traditional type will need to cook for about 25 minutes, possibly longer. Taste again for salt and remove from heat when it is no longer hard and gritty.

Pour into bowls immediately and serve.

Important Note: If there is any leftover in the pot, put it into a dish which you will want to keep in the refrigerator as it hardens as it cools.

Enjoy this ancient dish!

And if you try it and love it as much as I do, please click the 5 stars on the printable recipe card below!


Basic Polenta

Polenta, which can regionally be known as corn pudding, grits, porridge, or corn mush, can be served up savory or sweet at any time of the day. Start with this basic recipe and turn it into something your family will love.

***This post is not sponsored, but you may find affiliate links within this page. The price you pay does not change, but I may make a small commission based on your purpose. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support Renee Nicole&rsquos Kitchen.***

Polenta, in it&rsquos purest form, is basically cornmeal that has been cooked in water or stock. Traditional polenta is made using a method that requires you to stir for 45 minutes or more with a wooden stick. Traditional grits on the other hand must come from corn that was stone ground.

Truthfully, this recipe is not traditional. It is however, much easier to make, takes less time and attention, and I have found that it works with multiple types of cornmeal.

Depending on the time of day you can serve polenta as sweet, savory or a combination of both. Try it for breakfast with crumbled bacon, maple syrup, and a poached egg. On the other hand you could add some dried herbs and serve it with stews or saucy meats in place of mashed potatoes or noodles. You could also turn it into a dessert. The options are endless once you get started.

This recipe is for a very basic polenta. It includes 5 ingredients (one of them optional) and takes about 25 minutes total to make. I recommend using chicken stock for savory applications, as it adds so much rich flavor to the polenta that less seasoning is required in the end. I also use less salt and about 1/3 of the amount of butter when I use stock. If you like your polenta strictly for sweet purposes, I would suggest you trade the stock for water and omit the garlic.

To start, measure your ingredients and have everything at hand. Next, bring the chicken stock or water to a boil over medium-high heat. The cornmeal will quadruple in size as it absorbs the water so ensure your pot is large enough. I used a 2 quart lidded saucepan for the quantities below. Opt for non-stick if you have the option, as it will cut your stirring time from every 3 &ndash 5 minutes to every 5 &ndash 7 minutes. Two of my favorites are this one and this one.

Once the water is boiling, grab your whisk and slowly add the cornmeal while whisking constantly. This is the secret to avoiding most of your lumps. If done right, the cornmeal will be incorporated into the stock or water as soon as it hits the pan. Once the cornmeal is added, follow immediately with the garlic powder if using it. Continue to whisk for about 5 minutes until the cornmeal visibly thickens.

You probably noticed that the cornmeal doesn&rsquot look like a full half cup, which is due to settling. Cornmeal should be measured by first stirring then scooping or pouring, the excess should then be scraped off the top using a straight edge in the same manner that you would measure flour. After picking and moving the cornmeal a few times to get the shot right it settled into the measuring cup. This is one of the many reasons countries outside of the United States use weight instead of volume measures for cooking and baking.

Once the polenta thickens, cover it with the lid to trap extra moisture and set the timer for 20 minutes. Yes, you read that right, I consistently get great results only cooking it for 20 minutes. I have been guilty of leaving it over a low burner longer to keep it warm while I finish the rest of the meal, but if you are ready for it at 20 minutes it&rsquos good to eat.

During this 20 minute countdown, if you are using a non-stick pan stir it every 5 &ndash 7 minutes. If you are using stainless steel you will want to increase the stirring to every 3 &ndash 5 minutes. I find that stainless steel can get a dry crust on the bottom that will either burn or turn to lumps if stirred less often.

Once the timer goes off, stir in the cream and butter. Careful as the polenta will be hot.

From here you can serve it up plain, as a side dish or base for things like beef stew, meaty tomato sauce, or the balsamic honey dijon pork I&rsquoll be bringing you on Friday. You can also dust it with some dried herbs like I did here, or stir in some grated cheese or chunks of fruits or vegetables. The choice is yours.

Bonus: For a light, summery dessert chill the polenta until it solidifies then slice it and pan fry it in some butter. Top it off with some sliced fresh fruit, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, and a dollop of whipped cream. Yum!

Have you ever tried polenta? What&rsquos your favorite way to enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below!

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