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Creamy Polenta Recipe

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This Creamy Polenta Recipe is a 4 ingredient recipe using Parmesan cheese to create a rich, creamy and cheesy polenta dish. This is so easy to make and works great as the base for roasted vegetables or slow roasted meats like short ribs or meat sauce. 

Creamy Polenta Recipe with fresh thyme in a bowl.

CREAMY POLENTA RECIPE

This Creamy Polenta recipe is one I make a lot to pair with all kinds of meals from tender short ribs, to my favorite Italian sauce to balsamic roasted vegetables.

If you haven’t tried Polenta you are missing out! 

When Mike and I went to Italy years back I was introduced to polenta. It was creamy and so satisfying.

Polenta will stick to your bones, comfort you and fill you up.

One of my favorite things about today’s recipe is that it only uses 4 ingredients: polenta, butter, water {or broth} and Parmesan cheese. 

You are going to love this simple side dish that can be used in so many different meals! 

Creamy Polenta Recipe with a spoon.

WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE IN THIS CREAMY POLENTA RECIPE?

WATER OR BROTH: When I make this I usually use water but if you want to bump up the flavor you can substitute in broth.

For an even creamier texture you can also substitute in 1 1/2 cups of milk for 1 1/2 cups of water. 

POLENTA: I use yellow polenta or coarsely ground or medium cornmeal for this recipe. You can also use an instant polenta if you can find it. I tend to like the slow cooking kind more. 

CHEESE: The Parmesan cheese is a nice addition to this polenta. For me I just adore that cheesy, creamy texture. You can also use other cheeses like goat, cream cheese or ricotta. 

BUTTER: I use unsalted butter in this recipe but if you use salted you will probably want to cut salt out of the recipe at the end. When I do unsalted butter I will usually taste the polenta and add salt at the end. 

Creamy Polenta Recipe with cheese.

HOW DO YOU MAKE THIS POLENTA RECIPE?

In a large pot bring the water and salt to a boil. Once boiling slowly add the polenta, whisking continuously to prevent lumps.

Lower the heat and bring the polenta to a low simmer {you want it bubbling but not boiling}.

Creamy Polenta Recipe in a pot.

Add the butter and continue to whisk until it starts to thicken.

Cover the pot and let the polenta simmer for about 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally so the polenta isn’t sticking to the pot.

The polenta is done when it is tender and soft and thickens up. You will want to continue to cook it until it reaches this consistency.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, taste and add salt as needed.

Serve alongside an Italian meal, add slow roasted vegetables or meat.

Creamy Polenta Recipe with spoons.

WHAT IS POLENTA?

Polenta is basically cornmeal mush, and it can be made with any kind of cornmeal {ground coarse, medium or fine}.  

When making polenta, the better the cornmeal you use, the better your finished polenta will be.

In Italy, Polenta is often called “Italian grits” since it is made with coarse stone-ground cornmeal. Similar to a hearty porridge and grainy texture polenta will remind you of grits. 

Polenta actually originated in Northern Italy where it was essential to many peasant and working class families—a simple yet satisfying dish. I had it a few times while I was in Italy and it was so comforting. 

WHAT DOES POLENTA TASTE LIKE?

I think that polenta tastes like a hearty corn porridge. When you cook the grains it should taste a bit sweet, not bitter and raw. 

The better the cornmeal you use the butter the polenta will taste. This version uses Parmesan cheese so it has a cheesy flavor to it as well.

Creamy Polenta Recipe with a white napkin.

COOKING TIPS FOR THIS CREAMY POLENTA RECIPE

COOK TIME: The cook time depends on the type of polenta that you use. If you use a yellow polenta or coarsely ground cornmeal it usually takes about 25-30 minutes. If you use an instant polenta it can take about 3 to 5 minutes.

PERFECT POLENTA: You’ll know when your polenta is ready when the individual grains are tender and the texture is smooth and pourable.

If your polenta is runny/watery, it has not cooked long enough. If your polenta is thick and no longer pourable, add an additional 1/2 cup of water or milk and whisk it to combine. 

EXTRA FLAVOR: You can substitute chicken or vegetable broth for the water. This helps to enhance the flavor. 

EXTRA CREAMINESS: If you want an even creamier polenta substitute 1 1/2 cups of milk for the water.

CHEESE: I always recommend buying a block of Parmigiano Reggiano and grating it as you need it— it has a much stronger, nuttier flavor than pre-grated cheeses. 

You can also make this using other cheeses like cream cheese, goat cheese or even ricotta. 

Creamy Polenta Recipe with Parmesan cheese.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH POLENTA?

MUSHROOMS: Mushrooms is a nice addition to polenta. I love making these easy Garlic Sautéed Mushrooms or these Roasted Mushrooms with Balsamic.

VEGETABLES: Roasted vegetables are a great pairing. I especially love Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Ratatouille Recipe or these Lebanese Vegetables.

CHICKEN & TURKEY: I love making these Mediterranean Baked Turkey Meatballs, Herb Roasted Turkey or these Moroccan Chicken Thighs.

SEAFOOD: If you are looking for something to pair with seafood polenta is a nice option. I love making this Baked Cod with Lemon or Black Sea Bass Recipe.

BEEF: Slow cooked beef is the best with polenta. I often will make these Slow Cooker Italian Short Ribs and put that over the polenta. I also really like The Best Roast Beef Recipe,  Easy Italian Veal Chops or this Slow Cooker Pot Roast.

PORK: Pork is another option to pair with today’s recipe. I like making these Baked Pork Chops, this Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder Recipe or this Pork Tenderloin in the Slow Cooker.

Creamy Polenta Recipe with logo.

Creamy Polenta Recipe with fresh thyme in a bowl.

Creamy Polenta Recipe

Yield: 6-8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

This Creamy Polenta Recipe uses Parmesan cheese to create a rich, creamy and cheesy polenta dish. This is so easy to make and works great as the base for roasted vegetables or slow roasted meats like short ribs or meat sauce.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup yellow polenta or coarsely ground or medium cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions

    1. In a large pot bring the water and salt to a boil. Once boiling slowly add the polenta, whisking continuously to prevent lumps.
    2. Lower the heat and bring the polenta to a low simmer {you want it bubbling but not boiling}.
    3. Add the butter and continue to whisk until it starts to thicken.
    4. Cover the pot and let the polenta simmer for about 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally so the polenta isn't sticking to the pot.
    5. The polenta is done when it is tender and soft and thickens up. You will want to continue to cook it until it reaches this consistency.
    6. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, taste and add salt as needed.
    7. Serve alongside an Italian meal, add slow roasted vegetables or meat.

Notes

Leftover polenta can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat.

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