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!
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, whereas polenta is made from yellow corn.
Table of Contents
All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.
- 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
- 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)
- Once the polenta begins to splatter, lower the heat to medium-low. (Photo #2)
- Cover the polenta with a lid leaving a partial opening. (Photo #3)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
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.
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- 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.