Cornmeal mush, native to Southern Italy. tastes a lot better than it sounds. Often compared to grits.

How to make a pretty good batch of Polenta

  1. Get some water boiling. Not really rolling, just kinda simmering. For one, make it about a cup, maybe a cup and a half of water.
  2. Get some sort of impliment to dish the polenta into the water.
  3. Slowly dish the polenta (around a third to a half of a cup per person) into the water with one hand while constantly stirring the mixture with the other. Stop when the mixture looks like the cornmeal is floating and completely covering the water. (Bear with me...the effect is hard to describe)
  4. Is it boiling? Turn it down! You want the polenta to cook slowly.
  5. Stir it almost constantly, keeping the heat pretty low. You want steam to come up out of the polenta, but you don't want it to bubble vigorously.
  6. While it's cooking (and in between stirrings), grate some parmesan cheese. About a handful is good for one. Adjust accordingly.
  7. When the mixture gets really hard to mix (this should take between 10 and 15 minutes if you've been cooking it properly), throw in a pat or two of butter and the parmesean cheese. Mix thoroughly. Spoon some on your plate, sprinkle some of the leftover parmesean on it, put on some rosemary if that's your thing, and enjoy.
Put the leftover polenta in a container, throw it in the fridge. Tomorrow you can cut a slice or two of the solidified polenta, make a tomato sauce, and enjoy it again.

I feel that flamingweasel's method is too laborous (constant stiring) and scary (don't ever let it boil) to be practical. Too many people, I think, are put off by the traditional method of making polenta. However, it is too cheap and tasty to be ignored, and makes a great sidedish to ox tail stew, ragu, braised meats, and fried eggs. Luckily I have uncovered a much easier, hands off method for preparing polenta.


  • 1 cup of polenta (very roughly ground corn meal), AKA corn grits. My favorite brand is "Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits".
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • 3-5 cups of liquid (water, stock, and/or milk) Milk makes it yummy
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease a large oven proof pan with a tight fitting lid, cast iron skillet, or dutch oven works great.
  3. Pour the corn meal into the pan.
  4. Pour in the appropriate amount of liquid.
    • 3 cups for very firm polenta suitable for cooling, slicing and frying.
    • 4 cups for softish polenta suitable to be topped by a stew, braise, or ragu
    • 5 cups for a very soft polenta suitable for serving in a bowl topped with cheese or whatever you think sounds good.
  5. Add the salt,pepper and olive oil then mix it a bit. At this point it will be completely seperate. Never fear, it will all come together at about the 30 minute mark.
  6. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes covered.
  7. At the 40 minute mark, uncover, stir well and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes uncovered or until it looks done
  8. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Polenta is an Italian staple made from cornmeal (dried ground corn); the cornmeal is sometimes also called polenta. The cooked dish can be served immediately, in which case it is a soft tasty mush, or it can be pressed into a pan, dried, cut into squares, and fried or baked. I much prefer the former, for it is moister and more pleasant. I find "leftover" polenta akin to day-old cornbread: dry. Blech.

Above there's your stovetop method and your oven method. I have always used the former, but find it preferable to utilize a double boiler to prevent burning. There is an initial intensive stirring period, after which an occasional turn of the wooden spoon will suffice. It's not difficult to make.

As with anything relying so much on one ingredient - cornmeal, in this case - the best quality helps. I fully concur with lalala that "Bob's Red Mill" is the best; for those who don't live in North America, look for coarse stone ground cornmeal. It will have the best texture and flavour.

What you need to make tasty creamy polenta for four:

What to do:

Combine the liquid with the salt and lime rind in a heavy saucepan and bring to boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. (If you have a double boiler, do this in the top pot of the pair.)

Very gradually add the cornmeal, stirring constantly. (Don't add it too quickly or the mixture will be lumpy and that's not nice). Once it's all in there, reduce the heat a bit and cook for about five minutes, stirring often, till it's thick and fairly smooth.

Meanwhile, get an inch or so of water boiling in the bottom of the double boiler. (If you don't have one, you'll need to improvise: use a heatproof bowl that can sit over the water in the pot. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't sit in the water.)

Stir in the cheese, cream, and butter. Reduce the heat under the pot of water to medium-low and place the polenta pot over it (or spoon the polenta into the bowl and put it in the pot, over the water). The water in the bottom pot should simmer, not boil.

Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, till the polenta is smooth and doesn’t feel grainy when rubbed between your finger and thumb. Serve immediately with any kind of braised meat or savoury saucy vegetable dish.

Other polenta recipes on e2:

Po*len"ta (?), n. [It., fr. L. polenta peeled barley.]

Pudding made of Indian meal; also, porridge made of chestnut meal.



© Webster 1913.

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