Creamy Polenta

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4.91 from 10 votes
Polenta is a rich, creamy Italian side dish that will keep you full and satisfied. The addition of lush butter and parmesan cheese make it even more decadent.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 38 minutes
Total: 43 minutes
Creamy polenta in a bowl with a striped napkin and wooden spoon

This decadent creamy polenta is an Italian side dish that will keep you full and satisfied. It’s rich and flavorful and the perfect accompaniment for so many recipes.   

Creamy polenta in a bowl with a striped napkin and wooden spoon

Polenta has been around for centuries in Italy but it was Columbus who brought the corn from America to make it the staple that we think of today.

What Is Polenta?

Polenta is ground cornmeal that is cooked into a creamy porridge-like consistency.  It can be formed into a loaf, fried rounds, or served as a creamy side dish. It can even be enjoyed for breakfast.

It’s so versatile that it’s no wonder it’s an Italian favorite.  Plus, it’s delicate flavor makes it the perfect base for so many recipes like my Balsamic Beef.

How to Make Polenta – Step by Step

  • Step One: First, measure out all your ingredients and have them ready to go. (Photo 1 below)
  • Step Two: Then add salt to the water and in a large saucepan bring to a boil.  (Photo 2 below)
  • Step Three: Next slowly whisk in the cornmeal. It is important to do it slowly and whisk constantly so no lumps form.  (Photo 3 below)
  • Step Four: Lower heat and continue to whisk until Polenta starts to thicken. Then cover and allow to cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-6 minutes.  (Photo 4 below)

Step by step instructions for how to make the polenta: Step 1: Polenta in a measuring cup, cut up butter on a white plate, measuring cup with water in it, cheese on a white plate, a wooden bowl with spices in it. Step 2: Saucepan with water, measuring cup with salt in it. Step 3: Butter mixture, with polenta being mixed in with a whisk.

  • Step Five: Then take off the heat and stir in the butter.  (Photo 5 below)
  • Step Six: Finally, when the butter is half melted add the cheese, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Then stir, taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. (Photo 6 below)

Step by step instructions for how to make polenta, Step 1: polenta mixture in a saucepan, being mixed. Step 2: Saucepan with a polenta mixture with butter being mixed in with a wooden spoon. Step 3: Cheese and butter being mixed into the polenta mixture with a wooden spoon.

Is Polenta Gluten-Free?

Because it’s ground cornmeal, Polenta is a gluten-free dish that can replace pasta, rice, or potatoes in your favorite dishes. Yeah us!

Creamy polenta on a spoon

What to Serve with Polenta

Polenta, like rice, potatoes, or pasta can be used to enhance any dish. Serve under stews, with your favorite sauce, or use as a side dish for my  Italian Pot Roast.  The possibilities are endless. I like to make the cakes and use them as a pizza crust by topping it with my favorite sauce and cheese and baking it in the oven for a great gluten-free option.

Creamy polenta on a plate with Italian beef on top of it

Expert Tips for Making the Best Creamy Polenta

Like one of my food idols Ina Garten says, use the best ingredients you can afford to make a dish superb. This dish is really enhanced by using a good quality parmesan cheese and grating it yourself right before you use it. This is one of my favorite graters.

  • Use a scant cup of polenta: A scant cup is a cup minus 1 to 2 tablespoons. A scant cup is meant to signify just a little bit less than a standard cup measurement of something.
  • This Recipe Can be Doubled: This is a great recipe for a crowd.  Simply increase the ingredients proportionately and can really impress at a dinner party.
  •  Mix up your ingredients. Try adding different cheeses, drizzle with different infused olive oils or sauces to make it memorable.

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Creamy polenta in a bowl with a striped napkin and wooden spoon

Creamy Polenta

4.9 from 10 votes
Polenta is a rich, creamy Italian side dish that will keep you full and satisfied. The addition of lush butter and parmesan cheese make it even more decadent.
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 38 minutes
Total Time: 43 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 scant cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Add water and salt to large sauce pan and bring to a soft boil.
  • Slowly whisk in polenta. It's important to go slowly and continually whisk so you don't get lumps.
  • Turn heat to low and allow polenta to gently simmer while continually whisking.
  • When polenta starts to thicken, stop whisking and cover sauce pan.
  • Allow polenta to simmer with a lid on for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-6 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and add butter.
  • When butter is halfway melted, stir in the parmesan cheese.
  • Replace the lid on the pot and allow to sit off the heat for 5 minutes
  • Taste the polenta and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Expert Tips

  • Use a scant cup of polenta: A scant cup is a cup minus 1 to 2 tablespoons. A scant cup is meant to signify just a little bit less than a standard cup measurement of something.
  • This Recipe Can be Doubled: This is a great recipe for a crowd. Simply increase the ingredients proportionately and can really impress at a dinner party.
  • Mix up your ingredients. Try adding different chesses, drizzle with different infused olive oils or sauces to make it memorable.

Estimated Nutritional Information

Calories: 104kcal | Protein: 4g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 834mg | Potassium: 15mg | Vitamin A: 285IU | Calcium: 146mg | Iron: 0.1mg

The nutritional information provided are estimates. To learn more about how I calculate this information go to www.itisakeeper.com/about-its-a-keeper/privacy-disclosure-policies/

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5 thoughts on “Creamy Polenta”

  1. 5 stars
    This is an amazing recipe! I have never made my own polenta before but now there is no reason to buy pre-made polenta anymore. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. 5 stars
    I really appreciate how you laid out the directions step by step. I had never made polenta before and you made it easy! So good:)

    Reply
  3. 5 stars
    Thanks for the great tips on making polenta! I think I’ll try it with your Italian pot roast. Sounds like an amazing combo!

    Reply
  4. 5 stars
    This is my first time trying a creamy polenta and let me say, YES! We are going to be making this over and over again.

    Reply
  5. Adding this to the weekend menu! Creamy polenta is always such a great side. And the best part if frying or grilling the leftovers later! Yum!

    Reply

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