This creamy polenta dish is a quick and easy recipe that is great as a side dish or with slow-cooked meat and sauces like braised steak. It’s decadent, buttery, cheesy, and delicious. Made with grated parmesan cheese, this rich, cheesy polenta offers will help create a cosy meal. Bonus – You can easily add mushrooms to boost the protein and create a vegetarian meal.
Table of Contents
Easy – This creamy polenta recipe only requires a few steps, so it’s great even for beginners in the kitchen.
Quick – This yummy creamy polenta dish is ready in less than an hour.
Cheesy – This cooked polenta gets an even more decadent consistency with the addition of parmesan cheese.
Rich – Cooking this yummy polenta recipe with butter and cheese helps create a decadent flavour.
Creamy – Butter and cheese help create a deliciously creamy consistency.
Vegetarian – A quick swap of chicken broth for vegetable stock and use hard cheese instead of parmesan to makes this creamy polenta fully vegetarian.
Polenta (like the main ingredient for this parmesan polenta dish) is a type of cornmeal used for Italian dishes. It is typically available at the market dry, pre-cooked, or as a quick-cooking variety.
What is polenta made of?
It is typically made from ground flint corn. However, you may see polenta varieties made with yellow or white corn. Because of this, options at the grocery store can come in different colours.
What does polenta taste like?
Polenta has a subtle corn taste. Because of its mild flavour, it’s a great base for other stronger-flavoured ingredients like butter and cheese (like in this creamy polenta dish).
Quick history of polenta in Italy
In Italy, polenta was originally made from various grains, like rye and buckwheat. However, it shifted to yellow corn after being introduced in Europe in the 1500s. Yellow corn grew particularly well in the northern parts of Italy, making it an excellent filling option for peasants.
Multiple types of cornmeal exist, ranging from different types of corn to different textures. Most cornmeal types work well for creamy polenta, except for finely ground. Most of the below types of polenta will work well, though the consistency will change slightly depending on the option you select.
Stone-ground – This type of cornmeal is made by grinding corn between millstones. It has a coarser texture and a bolder corn flavour.
Coarse – You’ll find the consistency of coarsely ground cornmeal similar to stone-ground. It also has a bold corn flavour and a gritty texture.
Medium – Medium cornmeal is ground finer than stone-ground or coarse. This option provides the smoothest, creamiest consistency in polenta recipes.Instant – Avoid instant polenta for this polenta recipe. This variety is typically pre-cooked and then dried. It’s not ideal for homemade polenta dishes (like this recipe).
The key to creating lump-free, creamy polenta is stirring it consistently. You’ll notice clumps forming if you leave polenta on the stove without stirring it. Avoid this by staying near the pot and whisking the polenta. It’s also necessary to have sufficient liquid in the polenta to help avoid clumps.
Aim for a 1:4 ratio of cornmeal to liquid when making creamy polenta. This ratio of dry polenta and liquid ensures you avoid gritty or overly watery polenta. If you notice your polenta getting lumpy, you may need to add some extra liquid and whisk the mixture to create a creamy consistency.
I recommend using coarse or stone-ground cornmeal for this creamy polenta, as both options help create a lovely texture. For a creamier consistency, medium-ground cornmeal is the best option.
This is the best polenta recipe, as you can make it as cheesy as you’d like. I have parmesan cheese and pecorino listed in the ingredients. However, you can use nearly any type of cheese, allowing you to adjust the dish’s flavour to your preferences.
Chicken stock helps add flavour to the recipe. However, you can also use vegetable stock to create a vegetarian meal. If you prefer a richer taste, consider using beef stock instead.See the recipe card for full information on all ingredients and quantities.
When learning how to make polenta, it’s essential to remember cornmeal has a subtle flavour so you can easily make adjustments based on your preferences. For example, you can use a different cheese, like shredded cheddar, to create this creamy polenta. Or, boost the flavour by adding fresh/dried herbs and spices. Add some heat to the recipe by including cayenne pepper.
As mentioned, you can use vegetable broth to make the dish fully vegetarian. If you have extra cornmeal you want to use up, consider making polenta cakes. As the polenta cools, it hardens, so you can slice and grill it.
3. Slowly pour the polenta into the pan with the stock (Image 3).
4. Continuously whisk to prevent clumps and reduce the heat to a very low simmer and set a timer to 25 minutes. Cover with a lid and continue to cook the polenta whilst stirring at 5 minute intervals to prevent uneven cooking (Image 4).
5. After 25 minutes, the polenta should be almost cooked. Remove the lid and stir, continuing to cook, add the butter and pecorino (Image 5).
6. Cook for 5 more minutes, then remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Let it stand covered for 5 minutes (Image 6).
Top with flakey salt, optional extra pecorino/parmesan and a crack of black pepper. I served the creamy polenta with this delicious Tender Braising Steak with Gravy.
Do not buy cornflour
For this creamy polenta recipe, stick with stone-ground or coarse cornmeal. Do not buy cornflour, as it will create a mushy dish.
Add the right amount of liquid
Avoid common issues with polenta by using the correct amount of liquid. Follow the recipe below for the best results. Remember, you can add more liquid if the polenta is too thick or clumpy.
Flavour the polenta to your liking
Since polenta has a subtle flavour, adding sufficient seasoning, butter, and cheese is necessary to create a decadent taste. Do not skimp on the butter and parmesan cheese for this dish.
Use unsalted butter
Incorporating unsalted butter in this recipe allows you to better adjust the flavour. That way, you can make the dish as salty as you’d like. If you don’t have butter on hand, consider using olive oil instead. You can still adjust the sodium content easily, and the flavour of the oil complements the parmesan cheese.
Creamy polenta is a great dish, as you can enjoy it as-is or turn it into a more filling meal by adding a hearty protein. Consider serving polenta with roasted veg, mushrooms and gravy, beef stew, or a similar dish. If you prefer polenta as-is, add some fresh parsley and another sprinkle of cheese before digging in.
Put leftover creamy polenta in an airtight container. Once cool, keep it in the fridge for up to three days. You can also freeze polenta, but it’s best frozen in polenta cake form. Allow the polenta to cool and harden. Then, slice it into even pieces and freeze it in an airtight bag. Frozen polenta cakes will last for up to three months in the freezer.
Reheating creamy polenta is quite easy. If you’re reheating it from the fridge, put a serving in a pan on the stove and slowly heat it. You will likely need to add stock or milk as it’s heating, since polenta tends to dry out in the fridge.
If you’ve frozen polenta cakes, let them defrost in the fridge overnight. Then, grill them until they’re heated through. Once you defrost polenta cakes, they must be used within 24 hours. So, ensure you only defrost what you can eat.
Since polenta is made from cornmeal, it’s naturally gluten-free. However, there may be cross-contamination while polenta is being processed. So, it’s necessary to look for polenta that is certified gluten-free.
Polenta can be a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes. However, if your creamy polenta recipe is more decadent, it may be similar in calories to mashed potatoes. Everything is typically okay in moderation. However, it’s always best to consult your doctor or a dietician if you’re unsure of which foods are best for your nutrition needs.
Don’t fret! It’s normal to have black specks in your polenta. During processing, the corn kernel germ gets ground into the cornmeal. It’s typically a darker colour, so it leaves behind black flakes.
If you have gummy polenta, your ratio of liquid to polenta is off. You may either have too much liquid or not enough polenta. Ensure you follow the recipe steps for how to cook polenta to avoid this issue.
If you tried this Creamy Polenta with Parmesan, it would be mean so much to me if you could leave a review & a star rating to let me know how you found it! I love hearing about your experiences – it motivates me to keep creating more and more recipes for you guys 💛 Let’s get cooking! – Mimi x