Creamy polenta is a simple dish that often serves as a base for braised meat or vegetables, but is also delicious on its own! This recipe combines ground polenta with water, butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano and is pure comfort!

White and blue bowl with creamy polenta and melted butter.

When you’re looking for a velvety and comforting base for nearly any braised meat or vegetable dish, look no further than creamy polenta.

It’s easy to make, requires just a few ingredients, and is budget-friendly.

Since polenta is essentially ground cornmeal, it’s very similar to grits which are usually made from white corn, or hominy, and used in dishes that hail from the American south, such as shrimp and grits, whereas polenta is made from yellow corn and is used in northern Italian cuisine.

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredients shown: water, butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, and polenta.
  • Polenta. I used stone-ground polenta. If you prefer less gritty polenta, you can buy fine ground polenta or place it in a coffee grinder or food processor. I personally like a little grit to my polenta. If you cannot find polenta, you can also use grits. They are essentially the same thing.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano. For finishing and flavor.
  • Butter. For an extra creamy finished. Use unsalted butter.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

  1. Fill a deep pot with 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, whisk in 1 cup of polenta and stir frequently. (Photo #1)
Creamy polenta recipe collage number one showing whisking of polenta into boiling water and stirring polenta in Dutch oven.
  1. Once the polenta begins to splatter, lower the heat to medium-low. (Photo #2)
  2. Cover the polenta with a lid leaving a partial opening. (Photo #3)
Recipe collage two showing covering pot with lid and consistency of polenta.
  1. Continue to cook the polenta over moderate heat, stirring every so often (every 5 minutes or so – you don’t have to stir it constantly!) taking care to run the spoon along the side of the pot to dislodge any polenta. Cook until the polenta is completely smooth and no longer gritty, about 50-60 minutes. If the polenta becomes too thick, add water a 1/2 cup at a time and stir until creamy. (Photo #4)
  2. Turn off the heat and add 1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the creamy polenta along with 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and stir until incorporated. (Photo #5)
Recipe collage number three showing the adding of butter and parmesan and the final seasoning.
  1. Taste test the polenta and season with salt to taste. You will likely need a good amount of salt at this point. You can also add more butter or extra virgin olive oil to increase the body of the polenta. Serve and enjoy! (Photo #6)

Top tips

  • Use a cover. The cover will help prevent the polenta from splattering and will come in handy. Also, you may have heard the old wives’ tale that polenta needs constant stirring, similar to a risotto, however, that’s not really accurate. Using a cover helps prevent constant stirring, rather you should stir frequently taking care to scrape down the sides to dislodge any polenta that would have stuck.
  • Follow a 5:1 ratio. You can easily scale this recipe by remembering this ratio. 5 parts water to 1 part polenta. Though many websites repeat the 4 to 1 mantra, I have never made polenta successfully with that ratio. In fact, it will often need a bit more than 5 parts water.
  • Reheating leftovers. Store any leftover polenta in the refrigerator. When creamy polenta chills, it will solidify. To reheat, simply cut a chunk of the polenta and reheat it on the stovetop with a little water or milk to bring it back to a creamy consistency.
Polenta topped with Tuscan pepper stew in blue plate.

Creamy polenta serving suggestions

Creamy polenta with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano is the perfect base for dishes like spezzatino di manzo (Italian beef stew), Peposo (Tuscan beef and black pepper stew), and Brasato al Barolo, and while my short rib ragu recipe calls for pasta, this ragu could easily be served with polenta instead.

A few other meals that would be great with creamy polenta are Coq Au Vin, steak pizzaiola, and braised lamb shanks.

It’s also fantastic topped with vegetables such as roasted mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, or even ratatouille.

Creamy polenta topped with beef stew in white plate.

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Creamy Polenta

5 from 7 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 55 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Creamy polenta uses just 4 ingredients and is the perfect velvety base for braised meat, ragus, and stews.


  • 1 cup polenta
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • salt to taste


  • Bring a deep pot filled with 5 cups of water to boil.
  • Once boiling whisk in the polenta and stir frequently. Once the polenta starts splattering, lower the heat to medium-low and cover, leaving the lid partially cracked open.
  • Continue to cook at moderate heat, stirring every so often while wiping down the sides of the pot, until the polenta is completely smooth and no longer gritty (about 50-60 minutes).
  • If the polenta becomes too thick, add more water, about a 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until creamy.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and mix in the butter and cheese. Season with salt to taste and serve. Enjoy!


  • 5 to 1 water/polenta is recommended over the traditional 4/1 ratio.  Even still, you might have to add more water before serving if it starts to thicken too much.
  • This recipe easily scales.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days in the fridge and can be reheated on the stovetop with more water to loosen it up.


Calories: 313kcal | Carbohydrates: 31.2g | Protein: 10.2g | Fat: 16.7g | Saturated Fat: 10.5g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 874mg | Potassium: 4mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.4g | Calcium: 205mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Peter Nuzio says:

    My Aunt Theresa who was from Rome would make this when I was a kid. In a huge pot she would stir the polenta with a big stick and when done spread it out on a huge board the size of the table top. Then she would pour tomato sauce on top and each place setting had a meatball, sausage and braciole on it. To me it was such a treat and I can’t wait to start this tradition with my grandchildren this year. They’re 4 and 3, let the traditions begin. ❤️

  2. Sharon Oliveira (nee McDowell) says:

    5 stars
    I have never made Polenta before, but this came out perfect first time on your 1:5 ratio. I served this with your Beef Bourguignon recipe and it was a hit! Thank you, for easy to follow wonderful recipes.

  3. DonnaRose says:

    5 stars
    I enjoy watching your videos you explain things very clearly you give examples of what else you can use in the recipe just in case you don’t have the one item that’s called for. . I started cooking so much more again after watching your videos. and it’s nice that your family is involved. You also give out the recipes in different ways,You could watch your videos you could read the recipe.

  4. Diane Duca says:

    5 stars
    All your recipes are the same as my mom . Love them

  5. ThePontificator says:

    5 stars
    We’ve enjoyed polenta on and off for decades. Dad says my grandfather would cook polenta and upon finishing the cooking would allow it to stand in the pot and when it hardened up would invert the pan over a large cutting board. The dome of polenta would then be sliced into wedges and served with whatever accompaniment they chose. My favorite polenta dinner is a North-South combination of Sunday tomato sauce with Italian sausages served over a bed of polenta and topped with both shredded whole milk mozzarella and parm/romano. A very heavy winter dish and extremely satisfying. I use Dixie Lily yellow corn grits (coarse ground) when I can find them. They make an excellent polenta and are very reasonably priced. -John

  6. Roberta Pannutti says:

    This was a lot of help, my polenta always was kind of lumpy, followed your directions, and it came out beautiful. Thank you.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Roberta, so happy you enjoyed and thanks for the comment!

  7. Carol Darling says:

    5 stars
    Love your common sense method of creating delicious food. It takes the mystery out of cooking & makes healthy tasty food available to the everyday cook. I love your videos & your style of presentation.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Carol, thanks for the comment. We’re happy you enjoyed the recipe!

  8. Mr. Joe Sacco says:

    5 stars
    My dad used to make polenta in the restaurant for the family, it was not on the menu. He would over prepare and pour it into a half loaf pan . Next morning out of the fridge, slice and grill serve with syrup and bacon and eggs.

    1. Jennie says:

      5 stars
      I love chicken liver sauce over my polenta