Perfectly Creamy Polenta Recipe

Cornmeal, water and butter make a polenta that’s thick and slightly sweet in flavor. Top this creamy polenta recipe with roasted veggies, shrimp or ragout.

When we started getting into cooking, polenta sounded very glamorous. I didn’t even know what polenta was! Alex and I found a bag of cornmeal at the store, but our first attempt at making a polenta recipe was a total disaster. It tasted more like glue than anything else and was practically inedible! Since then, we’ve had a lot more practice making polenta and I’m pleased to report that this Italian dish is not only easy to make, but it also tastes incredible too (when you follow the right instructions, that is!). Keep reading for our favorite polenta recipe.

How to make creamy polenta

After much trial and error, we’ve created a simple, creamy polenta recipe that requires few ingredients and very little effort on your part. Learning how to make polenta is easier than we initially thought, and we’ve figured out that it all comes down to the ingredients you use. Cornmeal, water, and butter make for a polenta that’s thick and slightly sweet in flavor. For added flavor, you can stir in some shredded cheese when you mix in the butter. The cheese adds a delightfully savory note to the polenta and makes it taste like a much fancier dish than it actually is.

This creamy polenta recipe makes about 4 cups, so you’ll likely have leftovers. Cooked polenta gets hard in the fridge, but you can make it soft again by mixing it with a little milk or water on the stovetop and whisking until it reaches your desired consistency. Alternately, you can slice the hardened polenta and cook it in a little olive oil or butter until golden on both sides. The outsides will be slightly crunchy, while the insides will be gooey—comfort food at its finest!

One thing to keep in mind when making this homemade polenta recipe is that you cannot substitute grits for the cornmeal. Grits are coarser than cornmeal, which won’t give you the texture you want.

What to serve with polenta

Understandably, it’s a little confusing figuring out what to serve with a polenta recipe if you’ve never had it before. Because polenta is naturally sweet, it pairs well with rich, savory dishes and is a good alternative to pasta. Try serving polenta with dishes like sautéed greens or mushrooms, vegetable ragout, and so forth. If you eat fish, salmon would go well with polenta as well. You can also adjust which spices you add to this creamy polenta recipe depending on what you’re serving it with. A dash of garlic and onion powder in the polenta would pair well with sautéed greens, for instance.

Want to know what to make with this best easy polenta recipe?

This recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free.

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Creamy Polenta Recipe


1 Star (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 1)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Cornmeal, water and butter make a polenta that’s thick and slightly sweet in flavor. Top this creamy polenta recipe with roasted veggies, shrimp or ragout.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring 4 cups water to boil in a medium sauce pan. When the water boils, whisk in the 1 cup corn meal in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue whisking until the polenta begins to thicken (around 1 to 2 minutes). Add around 1 tsp salt.
  2. Reduce the heat so that the polenta bubbles slowly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the cornmeal loses its raw flavor (taste every so often to check).
  3. When the polenta is complete, turn off the heat and add 1 to 2 tbsp butter and more salt and pepper. You can cover it to keep it warm before serving. If the polenta becomes too thick, you can stir in a bit of milk or water to loosen it up.

Notes

For even more flavor, you can stir in some cheese with the butter in Step 3. For example, add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, or both 1/2 cup Parmesan and 1/2 cup ricotta.

Inspired by Jack Bishop in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook

Keywords: creamy polenta recipe

 

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.

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