How to Cook: Polenta

You don't have to do much whisking with this recipe. No, really.

Good grief, people! How have I managed to go so long without sharing how to make polenta? Really, it’s inexcusable.

I know you’ve probably been buying that polenta-in-a-tube at the store. I’ve stood in line behind many people who’ve purchased the polenta log. “Making it at home takes so much time,” they tell me. “You have to stir it constantly.”

Seriously? Do you think that I’d have time for that constant-stirring nonsense with a Tiny Kitchen Assistant in tow?

My polenta recipe is a scaled version of a recipe that I found in Cook’s Illustrated. Theirs made enough to feed a small army. Mine serves about four hearty portions, or six if you’re serving it as a smaller side dish.


  • 3 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 2-4 Tbsp butter
  • Freshly grated parmegiano reggiano cheese

In a large, lidded saute pan, boil water. Add salt and baking soda. Gradually whisk in polenta. Cover, reduce heat to low, and ignore for 5 minutes.

Lift lid. Whisk any lumps that have formed. Replace cover, simmer and ignore for 15 more minutes.

Check polenta. It should be smooth and creamy, with most of the liquid absorbed. Still soupy? Re-cover and ignore for 5 more minutes.

When the polenta reaches its smooth-and-creamy stage, whisk in butter and parmesan cheese.* Serve with an extra dusting of parmesan on top.

* Note: I recently had a container of creamy cheese and garlic pasta sauce from the ravioli stand at our farmer’s market. A big dollop of that instead of the butter and parmesan was absolutely amazing. Be creative.

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