Polenta: the Easiest Thing I never Made

I have a soft spot for polenta. I love to slice it about half an inch thick and sear it in a hot frying pan before covering it with some of our canned tomato sauce or other yummies. It`s also wonderful baked in the oven with an egg and salsa.

I didn`t grow up eating polenta.  It`s something I buy from time-to-time and wish I`d eat it a whole lot more.  It`s generally after eating it that I wonder why I don`t eat it more often.  I know that this was the case when we had a delightful evening out with a friend last evening and I had an appetizer which consisted of polenta, goat cheese, pepper puree.  It was stunning – and I knew I had to eat more polenta (even though it was the second time I`d had it in a week).

Polenta: the Easiest Thing I never Made Polenta Cornmeal Cooking Recipes

I knew making polenta couldn`t be that tough – but I was floored on how easy it was.  Here`s the ingredients for a basic polenta:

Polenta: the Easiest Thing I never Made Polenta Cornmeal Cooking Recipes

  • 0.5 cup milk – whole is supposedly best but we used skim
  • 2 cups water
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 cup corn meal (coarse is best)

Bring the milk and water to a near boil.  Whisk in cornmeal in a steady stream.  Whisk the mixture until it reaches the thick consistency of oatmeal.  This will take 2-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for few moments (not too long though – it will start to set).  Dump contents onto parchment paper, roll and place in freezer for 10 minutes (we did this on a cutting board).  You`re done.

It really is that easy.

There are many other ways to cook with it – we`ll share some as we experiment further.  In the meantime, I plan to pan fry a few slices with tomato sauce as soon as possible.

Any favorite polenta recipes out there (either for making it or cooking with it after the fact)?


  1. Weird, I’ve also felt the same way about polenta. I like it and I’ve heard it’s easy but something is just really intimidating about it.

  2. We looooove polenta, but almost never eat it fried-up or baked – just soft and warm and topped with savory goodness.

    • love with 5 o’s….wow Elizabeth, that’s dedication. We fried some and had it with chili due to the inspired comments here – was awesome!

  3. It’s probably all those directions about having to stir, stir, stir it for 30 minutes or more that people find intimidating. When I finally got around to trying it, having bought a fancy package labeled Polenta from a well-known purveyor and following the directions closely, I found out that it’s, well, just grits. In my experience, it’s never taken 30 minutes worth of stirring and all that angst. Now I buy coarse cornmeal from a local mill. I like to jazz it up with herbs and chopped dried or roasted tomatoes, pour it in a loaf pan and let it set, then fry up crispy slices and top with a poached egg. Makes a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner depending on the sides you put with it! It’s great soft as a side for a ragu or braise too. It’s even good with butter, half and half, cinnamon and a little honey as a breakfast cereal, but all the local folks roll their eyes and call me a “Yankee” when I do that! ;-)

    • laughing Rebecca – grits are so foreign in the North (well this far North) although you’re starting to see them appear in fine dining (of all places). definately want to play with infusing some flavor just as you describe above – also have been dreaming of a local cornmeal that i bought this summer. It was super coarse and I know it will make an awesome polenta that’s even more interesting than the ‘coarse’ stuff we have (which is rather fine)… The only problem is I think the supply is up for the year – but we’ll know Thursday… :)

  4. I grew up cooking and eating polenta. My dad was born in Italy and it was an important staple in their diet, especially when they had little to eat back in those days. We never used milk. Just salted water in a copper pot. Savory is the way to go…with venison stew, rabbit stew, or chicken cacciatore. My dad used to place thick slices in front of our indoor or outdoor fireplaces (we always had one wherever we lived) and “toasted” until lightly browned. Mmmmm!

    • I’m seaslife on twitter btw.

    • smiles to our twitter friend! Thanks for pulling up a chair round our table :)

      Like I mentioned below, we tried it with chili after reading so many ideas here – I had never imaged such options as we always used the packaged stuff for breakfasts and the odd snack. Good to know about the milk, I figured it was largely optional… Excited to try!

  5. Top polenta rounds with some spinach & slices of Italian sausage…yum!

  6. As it’s a great gluten-free vessel for tomato sauce, it’s popular in our house (with my gluten-free wife). I’ve never made it with milk either, just water salt and cornmeal. When I was at George Brown, one of my chefs explained that there were two different “types” of cornmeal (I can’t remember the terminology he used), one which cooked up in less than 10 minutes, and one that could take 30-60 minutes. I have no recollection how he differentiated, but I’ve never had problems with the Mr Gouda’s cornmeal from my local Asian grocery.

    As far as serving goes, sometimes we serve it as grits: hot, loose and as a side. Sometimes we pan-fry it too, but I love it cooled and cut, layered in a pan with tomato sauce, basil, and fresh mozzarella, and baked until it’s bubbly. I’ve also had it (though never tried to make it myself) as a dessert. It was made (if I recall) with lemon and sugar and cooled, then served with a whipped mascarpone cheese on it. Went amazing with an after-dinner glass of grappa.

    I think I have a plan for dinner now…..

    • Moohahaaa… I love the idea of “A great gluten-free vessel”. Makes it sound like a ship that sails an ocean of tomato sauce and I’m all about oceans of sauce!

      We moved to very slow-made polenta and it creates an awesome final product. I haven’t tried he over night slow cooker (you unplug it early in the process, not sure of exact process off hand) but very curious about that.

      I’m a parmasean or old cheddar dude when it comes to dinner polenta.

      We have a friend who bakes dried fruit into it for dessert which could also be fun. :)


  7. I live in Alberta Canada, can u buy polenta? And where can u buy it?

  8. Michelle Ann Anderson says:

    I love to turn polenta into quick “tamales”. I cut a small slab and fit into a greased ramekin, top with diced, cooked chicken, black beans, corn, etc. tossed in salsa. Then top with more polenta and a bit of cheese. Pop it in the oven until warm and delish!

  9. 1 son is 13 and just discovered to be Celiac, 1 daughter is 17 and just became vegetarian, the remainder 5 of us (parents,children and granny) will be a little -or a lot- Celiac-vegetarians, and I can see Polenta in our future, thanks for the suggestions….going to try it for dinner tonight!

    • Sarah,

      let us know how it goes!

      We have a series of posts on polenta that may help – different tricks and tips learned over the years; you can find it by the tag here: http://wellpreserved.ca/tag/polenta/

      As a former vegetarian living in a house with non-vegetarian parents, I know the challenges of such diverse eating needs! One thing I wish I knew back then was the term UMAMI. If you haven’t run in to it, it’s essentially savory (we wrote a full post on the term here: http://wellpreserved.ca/2011/12/27/the-things-ive-leaned-in-our-kitchen-2011-4-im-all-about-umami/). I’ve learned that it’s umami that leads me to feeling truly sated/ full from a meal with our without meat/ gluten… A lot of my vegetarian meals didn’t have umami and I was sometimes left hungry; I think this would have helped me a great deal. :)


  10. Love polenta, its the easiest thing to make…Water, salt & cornmeal, boil the water add the salt & cornmeal. cook & stir for about 15 minutes. When we were growing up we often had Chicken & polenta, the chicken is cooked in a tomato sauce then served over the polenta. Any leftover polenta made a great breakfast..fried in butter & drizzled with maple syrup!

    • Donna, I have to try it with maple syrup for sure. I’m a sucker for savoury and every time I intend to make a sweet batch I end up making a savory one. :)


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