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6 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
1 teaspoon salt
Whisk 1 1/2 cups water, polenta, and salt in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to simmer. Gradually whisk in remaining 4 1/2 cups water. Bring to boil, whisking polenta often. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until polenta is thick, soft, and creamy, stirring often, about 30 minutes.
Recipe by Bruce Aidells
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6 Delicious Ways to Use Tubed Polenta
You&aposve likely walked by it in the grocery store and never given it a second glance, but tubed polenta can be a key ingredient to creating quick and tasty weeknight dinners. Already pre-cooked and ready to add flavor and heft to your favorite dishes, tubed polenta deserves to become part of your regular meal rotation.
Depending on the grocery store, tubed polenta can be found in the refrigerated produce section (near the tofu) or in the pasta/Italian area. Most varieties are sold plain (with only yellow cornmeal, water, and salt as ingredients) but flavored polentas, like sun-dried tomato or Italian herb, are also often available.
Struggling to cook healthy? We'll help you prep.
Tubed polenta has a firm-yet-creamy texture, with a light corn flavor that makes it a great neutral-tasting ingredient. Since it&aposs already cooked, you can simply slice the polenta and prep it however you want, but if you need a little recipe inspiration we&aposve listed below our six favorite ways to use tubed polenta.
17 Delicious Vegetarian Dinners You Can Make with a Tube of Polenta
Published: Oct 9, 2017 · Modified: Oct 5, 2017 by Sarah Cook · This post may contain affiliate links.
A tube of polenta might not look that appetizing at first, but you'd be surprised how versatile and delicious it can be. Often made from a simple mix of cornmeal, water and salt, polenta is also naturally vegan and gluten-free.
Preparing it can be as simple as opening the package, cutting it into slices and sautéing, grilling, or baking it. Topped with vegetables and flavorful sauces, it can make for a quick and satisfying meal. Here are 17 recipes to help inspire you to get cooking with polenta!
Polenta Pancakes with Summer Berries // Breakfast for dinner just got a whole lot easier thanks to these polenta pancakes from Half Baked Harvest.
Caprese Polenta Bites // Paired with a side salad, these polenta bites from Tablespoon are bursting with summertime flavor.
Polenta Stacks with BBQ Squash & Cashew Cream // Cadry's Kitchen layers tender BBQ flavored delicata squash and cashew cream with polenta for a dynamite vegan meal.
Grilled Polenta Rounds with Black Bean Avocado Salsa // If you love Mexican-inspired meals then these polenta rounds with salsa from Two Peas & Their Pod are sure to please.
Ratatouille Polenta Stacks // Polenta gets a French-inspired twist with these savory ratatouille stacks.
Pesto Polenta Bites with Tomato Bruschetta // Whether you're making an appetizer or a light meal, these pesto polenta bites from Joyful Healthy Eats are a great option.
Polenta Veggie Burgers with Pesto & Veggies // Pumpkin and Peanut Butter gets super creative and uses polenta as a veggie burger for a quick and easy meal.
Spicy BBQ Chickpea and Crispy Polenta Bowls // Half Baked Harvest pairs polenta with BBQ chickpeas for an abundant bowl that's sure to satisfy.
Polenta, Veggie and Halloumi Kabobs // Salty halloumi and grilled polenta are the perfect match in these simple veggie kebabs.
Baked Polenta Fries with Garlic Tomato Sauce // These baked polenta fries give potatoes a run for their money with a perfect crispy exterior.
Mexican Baked Polenta with Salsa Beans & Sautéed Veggies // All you need is 30 minutes to whip up this delicious polenta bake.
Griddled Polenta with Eggplant Salsa // IBS Sano offers a Low FODMAP option featuring an appetizing eggplant salsa.
Spinach and Mushroom Polenta Stacks // The Flavor Bender makes spinach and mushrooms look drool-worthy in these cheesy polenta stacks.
Polenta Cakes with Red Wine Mushrooms // Mushrooms cooked in red wine make this meal from 2Teaspoons fancy enough to serve for date night.
Veggie-Loaded Polenta Bake // Super comforting and packed with veggies, this easy polenta bake is whipped up in no time.
Grilled Polenta & Zucchini Salsa // This fresh and summery dish from Love and Lemons is perfect for an al fresco dinner.
Sautéed Polenta with Marinara // Simple yet satisfying, this sautéed polenta dish from Food Fun Family is perfect paired with a side of fresh vegetables.
17 Delicious Vegetarian Polenta Recipes
1. Polenta Pancakes with Summer Berries
Wake up with some buttered polenta and fresh summer berries. Doesn’t that sound like the most delicious Sunday brunch option? What’s so amazing about this recipe is just how easy it truly is. Novices rejoice! We’ve found a special one for you!
“Some pancakes are all about the berries, or the chocolate or maybe something even fancier that I simply cannot think of right now because my mind is having a buttered polenta moment.” – Half-Baked Harvest
2. Vegan Polenta Stacks with Squash & Cashew Cream
Both beautiful and delicious, these polenta stacks – filled with layers of squash and cashew cream – are what a vegan’s fall dreams are made of. Use these at any family potluck or to compliment Thanksgiving this year. And there may or may not be some vegan BBQ sauce involved.
“There’s something about stacked food that just screams fancy. These vegan polenta stacks would make an eye-catching entree for the holiday table or a dinner party. Vegan & gluten-free.” – Cadry’s Kitchen
3. Grilled Polenta Rounds with Salsa & Black Beans
Light up any summertime affair with these mini rounds with fresh salsa. Some jalapenos or hot sauce could top these cuties off as well as some vegan sour cream!
“Grilled Polenta Rounds with Black Bean and Avocado Salsa-this easy summer appetizer is great for entertaining! ” – Two Peas & Their Pod
4. Spinach & Mushroom Polenta Stacks
Parmesan can be found within the nooks and crannies of these delicious, veggie-filled treats! And we’re all about the cheesiness today folks.
“These Spinach and Mushroom Polenta Stacks are as flavorful as a vegetarian meal could ever be and as impressive as anything you’d be served at a restaurant!” –The Flavor Bender
5. Polenta Cakes w/ Red Wine Mushrooms
You may be surprised to learn that this fancy sounding recipe is actually made with pre-made polenta. Yes, you hear it right – which means – quite literally ANYONE can have a go at making this and impressing friends at their next dinner party.
“I topped them with red wine mushrooms and some shredded cheese to up the deliciousness! At first I was weary of polenta, but now I’m totally hooked on it’s creamy texture and slightly sweet taste! ” – 2 Teaspoons
6. Grilled Polenta & Zucchini Salsa
Ya’ll this meal screams to be eaten on the back porch when the sun is just right in the sky. It’s fresh, it’s delicious, and it’s completely guilt-free.
“At the end, I stirred in some diced avocado and topped it onto my grilled polenta. A perfect light meal for summer!” – Love and Lemons
7. Sauteed Polenta with Marinara Sauce
Go the Italian route with this polenta masterpiece. And this particular recipe is insanely simple (and hits the Weight Watcher diet with just 1 points per piece!).
“For me, 3-4 slices of polenta with marinara and a little Parmesan cheese is a perfect lunch meal, and since it cooks up so quickly, it’s definitely lunch-time friendly, too.” – Food Fun Family
8. Cheesy Polenta & Mushroom Pizza
Who knew your pizza day could be made with a bit of polenta on the plate? You’ll want to check out how you can create one of the more innovative polenta recipes on our list by hopping over now!
“Skip traditional dough and liven up pizza night with a more flavorful base for your pie. Polenta makes a delicate and delicious foundation for a mixture of button mushrooms, shiitakes, shallots and Gruyère cheese.” – Woman’s Day
9. Slow Cooker Mini Meat Loaves & Polenta
Comfort food is something that polenta can be a part of too. You can turn traditional polenta into a mini meat loaf – one that will feed the entire fam (which they will want 2nd helpings of).
“Get reacquainted with this throwback dinnertime classic.” – Woman’s Day
10. Eggplant Polenta Stacks
This is one of those recipes that are both yummy, but just so beautiful to look at too. It’s a great bite for when you want to impress or need an awesome appetizer to spice up dinner.
” Add eggplant and onion. Cover and cook over medium-high heat 4 minutes, stirring a few times until slightly softened.” (and that’s just the beginning!) – Woman’s Day
11. Beans & Greens with Lemon Parmesan Polenta
Light and delicious, this is another Woman’s Day recipe that we’re falling-in-love with. It’s a great dish for a spring, patio picnic and it’s filled with fresh flavors!
“Greens add a sharp bite and flavor to this creamy, cheesy dish.” – Woman’s Day
12. Pesto Polenta Bites with Tomato Bruschetta
Here’s another small bite that we know will hit the dinner party or potluck just right. Use this as a summertime holiday appetizer or addition to the family BBQ.
“These crispy Pesto Polenta Bites with Tomato Bruschetta are the perfect quick, easy and healthy bite-sized appetizer recipe! The fresh flavors will make it hard not to fill up on them!” – Joyful Healthy Eats
13. Polenta Veggie Burgers
Yes, you can turn polenta into a burger. The flavorful pesto and veggies class up the sandwich with ease and no guilt!
“That crispy, creamy bite of polenta mixed with the warm, garlicy pesto and the tender roasted veggies— now that’s my kind of burger! It’s literally different from ANY meat-less burger I’ve ever had. Such a great way to change things up every now and then.” – Pumpkin & Peanut Butter
14. Spicy BBQ Chickpea & Crispy Polenta Bowls
There’s a lot to love and be excited over when it comes to this bowl. It’s filled with fresh ingredients and it’s packed with BBQ! We love this as a meal-prepped lunchtime option as well.
“This is everything I could want in a meal. It’s colorful, easy, quick, ridiculously healthy, a little spicy and I mean… there is pan-fried polenta going on. So good.” – Half-Baked Harvest
15. Griddled Polenta with Eggplant Salsa
Eggplant salsa may not sound like the best of the best – but we promise it’s packed with a lot of punch and fun flavors. Check it out and see if any of it sounds like it may strike your fancy.
“Brush both sides of each wedge with a little of the remaining oil and barbecue or griddle for 5 mins on each side until charred and hot through. Serve a couple of wedges per person, topped with a generous spoon of the eggplant salsa.” – IBS Sano
The Cooking Time and How to Shorten It
So, if we're using a proper ratio of liquid to cornmeal, the next question is how long to cook it. This is another area that a lot of people get wrong all too often, serving the polenta while it's still very runny. Of course, there's space for personal preference, and if you want a runny polenta, I won't argue. But I'd like to share one more story about my time working for Cesare that may change how you think about it.
One day, I was cooking some polenta at his restaurant, and I pulled it from the fire a little too soon. Cesare walked over, lifted a spoonful of polenta from the pot, then tipped it so the polenta flowed off the spoon in a thick stream back into the pot. "You want your polenta to look like snot?" he asked me. No, I realized, I do not. I'll never look at runny polenta the same way again.
So what is a good texture? As Max put it one day, when he ate some of the polenta I was making in the office, "It's like soft-scrambled eggs."
He's exactly right. For me, the best polenta texture in most circumstances is soft and moist, spreadable, spoonable and creamy, and just barely flowing.
With the right ratio of liquid, it can take a while to get there, so here's another warning: Beware any polenta recipe that uses medium or coarse cornmeal and specifies a cooking time of less than 45 minutes. Honestly, an hour is even more realistic.
Now, as I said above, you don't actually have to stir the polenta constantly for a full hour as it cooks, but it does require frequent attention. But here's the good news: In the course of my testing, I stumbled on a way to cut the cooking time roughly in half. All it requires is a little forethought.
The trick is to presoak the polenta in its liquid for several hours before cooking it. This step helps fully hydrate the cornmeal before you even start cooking it, which in turn drastically cuts down on the cooking time. By presoaking, I was able to fully cook polenta that otherwise would have taken an hour in just 30 minutes.
Polenta is a traditional Northern Italian dish, but has become a classic nationwide thanks to its simple taste, made of corn flour and water, that is also versatile enough to be included in the greatest restaurant menus in the world. Towards the end of the 1500s, corn was a prosperous crop in Italy and quickly grew to become the basic ingredient of the working-class meals.
A low-cost alternative, corn flour was consumed on a daily basis in the shape of polenta, accompanied with a variety of ingredients. Polenta was a nutritive poor man’s dish that made its way to the tables of the aristocracy, like many other Italian recipes, and today it has become of the most beloved dishes of world famous international chefs!
Creamy Oven Polenta
Ah, polenta. It&rsquos creamy and comforting, but so often misunderstood. Stand over the pot, stirring, for hours on end? No thank you. Enter this hands-off method for creamy oven polenta from Sheela Prakash&rsquos cookbook, Mediterranean Every Day. Suddenly, the cheesy side dish is a weeknight staple.
&ldquoFor years, I labored over the traditional stovetop approach,&rdquo Prakash writes, &ldquoand for every time it came out perfectly, there were at least a couple times it would end up gummy and cement-like. Cooking polenta in the oven isn&rsquot conventional but it&rsquos the only method I&rsquove found that produces the most consistent results. It also happens to be the most hands-off approach: Slip a baking dish of polenta and water in the oven and return less than an hour later to find perfectly creamy results&mdashno standing over the pot, stirring, required.&rdquo
That's not the only perk: &ldquoWhile the polenta does its thing in the oven, focus your energy on making the topping of your choice on the stove.&rdquo We&rsquore partial to crispy mushrooms or tender sautéed greens, but this is your masterpiece.
Reprinted with permission from Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food, Copyright © 2020 by Sheela Prakash. Published by The Harvard Common Press, an Imprint of The Quarto Group.
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed for coating the dish
1 cup (163g) polenta (coarse-ground, not instant or quick-cooking)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (28g) packed fresh finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, cubed
1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Drizzle some olive oil into an 8-by-8-inch or other 2-quart baking dish and use your hands to coat the bottom and sides of the dish with oil. Add the polenta, salt and several grinds of black pepper to the dish. Pour in the water and whisk to combine.
3. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and whisk in the cheese and butter cubes (the butter doesn&rsquot need to be completely melted). Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, until all the liquid is absorbed and the polenta is creamy, 8 to 10 minutes more. Whisk once or twice more and serve immediately with the topping of your choice.
Note: It&rsquos important to use the right type of polenta here, but shopping for it can be unnecessarily complicated if you don&rsquot know what you&rsquore looking for. Bypass instant or quick-cooking polenta, as well as the pre-cooked tubes. Instead, look for coarse-ground polenta. It&rsquos easy to find at Italian markets, but if you&rsquore shopping for it at larger grocery stores, Bob&rsquos Red Mill is likely to be the brand you&rsquoll come across, although they label their polenta as &ldquoCorn Grits Polenta.&rdquo
Look no further. This is the best recipe out there! Easy to follow and Delicious!
This is my first review after 5 years of loyal Epicurious participation. The reviews are what keep me anchored to Epicurious. I too made the base recipe and was underwhelmed. I feel that when people alter the recipe and transform it from "eh!" to wonderful, in their opinion, I'm all for it. Frankly, I also consider the chef's geo-area. I travel a lot and find that even as our regional accents may have devolved somewhat, our regional taste preferences are still strong ..And that effects reviewers comments. So, I followed Eeloo's suggestion ( he/she's NW USA like me) , minus the double boiler, went with a good Italian herb infused oil, slight modification . WAY GOOD! Glad I made extra so I can serve it with his/her sautée with halibut later in the week. Thank you chefs. Keep tweaking and sharing!
I know people don't like seeing reviews about recipes that have been altered so this rating is based on the recommendations others made. I've never made polenta before as it looks so bland but wanted to to try it. I followed the suggestions of half chicken broth, half milk, parmesan cheese and cooked it in the double boiler. Instead of butter, I drizzled a bit of basil infused olive oil and served it with a sautee of peppers, zucchini, onion, cherry tomatoes a dash of vermouth and black cod. Absolutely delicious and so easy.
Following the advice of several other reviewers, I used equal parts milk and chicken broth, prepared in a double boiler and added freshly grated parmesan cheese . Made 1 / 2 recipe and served with osso bucco. Delicious! Will make again!
I make this with half whole milk and half water. Delicious and easy! The leftovers fry up lovely as well.
Made a few changes: Put course grind polenta and broth/milk (room temp) in the pot over medium heat and stirred when it started to thicken, I added 1 cup of finely grated Pecorino Romano (from a chunk and not pre-grated) When polenta started to pull away from the pot as I stirred, I added butter and S P. Perfect. By not boiling the polenta, it had much better flavor and texture. Served as soon as it was done topped with whole Lautrec Sausages, onions and grapes all cooked on stove top Tomorrow I'm going to put everything but the cheese and butter, into my crockpot, start it on high for 30" and then on low for another 30 .
Made the changes most suggested here and added a few of my own - it was fabulous! Used 1/2 milk and 1/2 chick broth. Much like a favorite restaurant from years ago, served with a healthy dollop of pesto in the center, surrounded by slices of tomato around the edge, and topped with thin slices of a good cheese (I used bits of fresh mozza) that melted into the whole thing. Absolutely sublime! Served as a main dish with baguette toast and a salad.
I did cut the recipe in half, but when I was finished it just tasted like butter.
Definitely add 1/2 milk, 1/2 chicken broth in place of the water. Cooking is easier and faster by using a double boiler - only 25 minutes. If you can't serve it immediately, try adding more milk to the pot without stirring it in. Leave the double boiler on the lowest heat and stir the milk in just before serving. Yum.
I got a grain mill for our Kitchen-Aide mixer for a Christmas present. Wow! I snagged some field corn on the cob from a feed store (AKA "Horse Corn"). I shelled it and ground some fresh, coarse corn meal. I used the ingredients in this recipe, but I did it in a crock pot, cooking on low overnight. Next morning, done and creamy smooth.I poured it into a loaf pan and cooled, then chilled. Sliced and grilled, sauteed, or backed is awesome!
Turned out fluffy and tasty once I "fixed it" a couple of times. As other reviewers did, used 1/2 2% milk and 1/2 broth. Maybe my mistake was that I brought it to a boil before I turned it down to simmer? I needed to thin it out with water a few times during the cooking process (that took way less than 45 min). Will make again and try a mushroom ragu over it (had pork with cherry sauce).
Yes yes yessss, this is a heavenly base for whatever sauce or topping you can whip up, and a super easy way to prepare it. Definitely do 1/2 milk 1/2 stock thang, much creamier and way more flavorful. And despite what the other reviewer says, do NOT skimp on your quality of polenta/cornmeal. I splurged on freshly milled cornmeal at the farmers market, and at the risk of sounding like the biggest bougie you've ever heard, it is indeed the most delightful and thrilling polenta I've ever had. When's the last time you ever thought polenta was thrilling? That's right, I thought so. Do yourself a favor, get fancy polenta!
Very good recipe. "Polenta" is a dish, "cornmeal" is its ingredient (as well as other ground grains, such as buckwheat), even though plain cornmeal is sold marked as "polenta" with, of course, a higher price. All that is needed is very good quality cornmeal. no need to buy the "gourmet" products labeled "Polenta".
Wow, this was so creamy and delicious! I follow reviewer suggestion and made from ɼold' start used half milk and half chicken broth in place of water. I really like the cooking method. When the polenta was finished cooking, I added 1 C grated cheese and about 1 tsp dried thyme. This will definitely be the recipe I 'go to' for soft polenta. This was a side dish for BA Spanish Crusted Roast Pork Tenderloin (wonderful).
Polenta is a wonderful food. This recipe seems to be the building block. Iɽ suggest a couple of things, however. First, Iɽ suggest substituting broth for water. A vegetable, chicken, fish or beef broth adds a wonderful dimension to the flavor and better links the polenta to the main dish. Second, Iɽ recommend experimenting with adding your favorite enhancements, such as sauteed mushrooms, basil, or cheeses, late in the cooking process. It seems to me that it's difficult to go wrong with this basic recipe and it's fun to adapt it to your family's tastes over time.
I used cornmeal from the baking aisle and it turned out great! Also reheats in the microwave with a bit of water really well.
Simple, Delicious, have made it again and again. Always a great side dish.
Wow! this is the first polenta recipe that worked the way it was supposed to for me. Usually the polenta cooks way too fast. I used the polenta they sell in the bulk bin at Whole Foods and cooked it for an entire 45 minutes. (I actually prefer doing this with grits for example.) The polenta really was "creamy."
Wow, great comfort food and so easy. I, too, used the cold water method (substituting a can of chicken stock for a portion of that) then stirred in a cup of pecorino romano cheese once off the heat. Topped with a creamy mushroom sauce, this simple dish is hard to beat!
First time to try polenta. Have a new love. Followed other reviews and made with broth and milk and started cold. Added some parmesan cheese and topped with sauted shitake mushrooms. Awesome!
I used 1/2 milk and 1/2 chicken stock and added Italian Spices, Garlic Pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. It was great!
Try this instead and save yourselves as lot of time: Soft Polenta 2 quarts water 2 Tablespoons butter 2 teaspoons salt 2 Tablespoons minced parsley 2 cups coarse-ground cornmeal Combine water, salt, cornmeal and butter in a 3 to 4 quart ovenproof saucepan (I use large clear Pyrex bowl). Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 1 hour and 20 minutes. Stir polenta and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and set aside 5 minutes to rest before serving. To serve, spoon polenta into each of 6 warmed shallow bowls. Spoon sauce of your choice and garnish with parsley if desired.
Three forks with modifications. I always start polenta in cold water - it allows the starch to expand more making it creamier. Also start with 1/2 milk and 1/2 chicken broth for flavor and creaminess.
Just a not to the last reviewer, yes it works quite well starting with the cold water. And yes I start my oatmeal - cream of wheat, (even grits!) this way, and it comes out much creamier, and as long as you stir from time to time, there's no problem with clumping! give it a try!
This is a very reliable recipe for polenta. The beauty of polenta is you can be really inventive, adding seasonings, cheese, it's always delicious! To the person who starts with cold water, I have never heard of that for making polenta. Wouldn't it take longer, and clump? Making polenta is like making oatmeal or cream of wheat, and you start with boiling water or scalded milk to make them.
This creamy polenta recipe comes together in a flash, thanks to one simple prep step. Serve it as a side dish, or add flavorful toppings to make it a meal.
Everyone raves about Italian pasta and pizza, but if you ask me, polenta deserves just as much love. A north Italian porridge made of coarsely ground cornmeal, polenta is wonderfully creamy, with a lightly sweet, buttery corn flavor. Unlike oat porridge, it’s not a traditional breakfast food. Though I do eat it for breakfast on occasion (see page 49 of Love and Lemons Every Day!), I most often enjoy this smooth, savory porridge for dinner. Topped with cheese, herbs, cooked vegetables, or a flavorful sauce, it transforms into a mouthwatering comfort food.
Below, you’ll find my go-to method for making creamy, soft polenta in no time, plus my favorite ways to serve it. Try it once, and it’ll have a permanent place in your rotation of potatoes, pasta, and bread. It’s simple, healthy, and, most importantly, delicious.
How to Make Polenta
Polenta has a reputation for being a finicky dish – it can take up to an hour of stirring over the stove, and it’s easy to end up with a lump-filled mess instead of a smooth porridge. But when I want polenta, I want it now, so I developed an easy method for making creamy “instant” polenta.
Before I start cooking, I pulse the cornmeal in the blender so that the granules are less coarse. Made with this fine cornmeal, polenta is extra creamy, and it cooks in a fraction of a time. Once you try this method, you won’t make it any other way! Note: this method works perfectly with Bob’s Red Mill’s Coarse Ground Polenta.
After you pulse the cornmeal in the blender, sift through it with your fingers to break up any clumps. Then, bring 3 cups of water to a simmer in a saucepan, and gradually add the polenta, whisking constantly.
Add an additional cup of water to the pan and continue to cook, stirring, for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed if the polenta starts to boil. If the porridge becomes too thick, stir in up to 1/2 cup more water.
Turn off the heat and add a glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes before you eat. Enjoy!
Polenta Recipe Tips
- Sift through the blended cornmeal before you cook it. After you pulse the cornmeal in the blender, the fine grounds will have a tendency to stick together. To avoid ending up with large lumps in your cooked polenta, sift through the blended cornmeal with a fork or your fingers to break up any clumps.
- Whisk constantly as you pour the cornmeal into the boiling water. Lumps are the biggest pitfall in making polenta, but it’s easy to avoid them. Pour the cornmeal into the water gradually – NOT all at once – and whisk constantly as you do it. The constant whisking will evenly disperse the cornmeal grounds in the water, so they won’t have a chance to clump together.
- It’ll thicken as it sits. Cooked polenta thickens quickly, so if you don’t plan to eat it right away, you’ll likely need to thin it before you serve it. Reheat the thickened polenta on the stove over low heat, adding more water or olive oil, as needed, to thin it to your desired consistency. Make sure to taste and adjust the seasonings before you serve it. After you add the extra liquid, it’ll likely need another pinch of salt.
Polenta Serving Suggestions
Polenta is a fantastic blank canvas for flavorful toppings. Most simply, I enjoy it as a side dish with a shower of grated Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper. On occasion, I’ll add roasted chickpeas or toasted pine nuts for crunch. Otherwise, I’ll top it with a cooked veggie and a punchy sauce to make it a meal on its own:
- Cooked veggies are the perfect way to add hearty texture, richness, and flavor to creamy polenta. Try pairing it with roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, butternut squash, or cauliflower, with grilled mixed vegetables or zucchini, or with sautéed mushrooms.
- A punchy sauce is key for transforming this from a side dish into a show-stopping entrée. I especially like it with homemade marinara sauce, pesto, or chimichurri.
How do you like to serve polenta? Let me know in the comments!
More Cooking Components
If you loved learning how to make polenta, try making one of these healthy cooking components next: