Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal  It may be served as a hot porridge, or it may be allowed to cool and solidify into a loaf that can be baked, fried, or grilled. The dish is associated with Northern and Central Italy. Traditionally it is cooked in a large copper pot, known as paiolo in Italian and is stirred with a large wooden stick until it becomes thick enough to hold the stick on its own. It s great fun to make this a family affair and each family member takes their turn to stir. It turns cooking a fun gathering point to share conversations and laughter while stirring.

Boiled polenta may be eaten as is, or it may be allowed to set and then baked, grilled or fried.  Cooked polenta can be shaped into balls, patties, or sticks, and then fried in oil, baked, or grilled until golden brown; fried polenta is called crostini di polenta or polenta fritta.

You can also pour it out onto a wooden board and serve from there, cutting it with a string or wire, which is often how they do in Italy. Serve the polenta on plates or bowls and top with whatever sauce and topping you like, or pour it into a mold of some sort and let it cool until set.



Polenta is very versatile and good for you too.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 220 kcal
Author Laurie


  • 4 to 5 cups milk water or broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup polenta or grits
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


  1. Place your liquids is a large pot. Milk makes a rich and creamy polenta, chicken or vegetable stock gives flavor to the polenta. Plain water is traditional and allows the corn flavor to come through.  Add salt to your liquid and the polenta, to cold liquid, stir continually to get rid of all lumps. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cook 30 to 40 minutes or until thick and done.

  2.  Polenta will start to spit and pop, lower the heat low enough so that the polenta won't puff, pop, and spit as it cooks. Stir it every few minutes, always scraping the pot bottom. After a while, the polenta will start to thicken, even more, pulling away from the side of the saucepan slightly as you stir. Polenta is finished when your spoon will stand up alone in the middle of the pot then add some butter and/or olive oil to enrich it slightly. If at any point your polenta becomes too thick or hard, just add some water, stock, or milk, and whisk it in. It'll start off lumpy, but will quickly become soft and smooth again. 

  3. Varriation: For quick cooking of your polenta soak the polenta in the liquid for several hours before cooking it. This helps fully hydrate the cornmeal before you even start cooking it. By presoaking, you can reduce cooking time to about 30 minutes or less.

  4. The most traditional way to serve polenta is pouring it on a platter and covering it with a sauce or butter and cheese.

  5. Polenta can be microwaved at high for about 15 minutes, and stir twice during cooking time.


  1. Polenta with Herbs: add to cooking polenta; 1/4 cup more Parmesan cheese, 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper, 1/4 t red pepper flakes, 1 t fresh sage, or 1/4 t dried, 1 T fresh minced parsley, 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes.
  2. Polenta with Green Onions: Add 1/2 c chopped green onions, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to the cold polenta and cook as before; when done add 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and 2 eggs stir and cook 5 more minutes.
  3. Polenta can be layered in a 13 x 9 baking dish and filled as with lasagna with layers of filling. Or it may be poured into a bread pan and allowed to set up in the refrigerator for 1 to 4 hours and then sliced and fried. Polenta may also be served by pouring it into a mold.

  4. Polenta with Fontina and Sage: add 2 t fresh sage minced in polenta and cook as before. Place in a loaf pan and cover with 2 oz. grated Fontina cheese. Bake 10 minutes in a 425 degree oven.
  5. Tricolor Polenta Terrine: Divide prepared polenta into three portions. In one portion add 1/2 cup pesto. In the second add 1/3 cup cooked corn kernels and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. In the third add 1/4 cup pureed roasted red peppers, and pureed 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, and add to the polenta.

  6. Monnies's Paun Haus: Add 8 oz. cooked, crumbled, cooked sausage that has been well drained of excess fat to the polenta. Pour into a bread pan, cover and let set up over night. In the morning slice into 1/2 inch slices, dredge in flour and fry. Serve with maple syrup.
  7. Breakfast Polenta: add 1/2 cup raisins to cooking polenta. Proceed as with Paun Haus
  8. POLENTA BRUSCHETTA-Pour the cooked polenta onto a baking sheet so it sets up to be 1/2 inch thick or less. Top with 1 T olive oil, 2 T basil leaves chopped,1 t minced garlic, 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped, salt and pepper, 1 1/2 c grated mozzarella.

    Take the polenta from the form and slice. Heat oil in a skillet or griddle and fry each piece. When you fry the polenta it will stick at first, any attempt to lift or move it will cause it to tear.  Wait a few minutes of high heat, the polenta should release all by itself.  When it's ready,  it will come free and offer no resistance when you try to lift it. Now turn the polenta over, and cook the other side.When you fry finished polenta it will stick at first, any attempt to lift or move it will cause it to tear.  Wait a few minutes of high heat, the polenta should release all by itself.  When it's ready,  it will come free and offer no resistance when you try to lift it. Now turn the polenta over, and cook the other side.

  9. Caprese Salad on Polenta:  Cut formed polenta into 1/2 inch think,  MIx 3 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/4-inch thick slices,1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut 1/4-inch thick, 20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil, Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, Sea salt and pepper. Arrange the ingredients on the polenta. Place on a platter, and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Equipment Required: Large pot with a heavy bottom Long strong wooden spoon for stirring

Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving
Calories 220 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 12%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Trans Fat 0.1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 22mg 7%
Sodium 310mg 13%
Potassium 134mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 27g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 5g
Protein 8g 16%
Vitamin A 4%
Calcium 19%
Iron 7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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