Creamy Polenta Recipe

A bowl of creamy parmesan polenta in a bowl with a spoon
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Shake off those cornmeal jitters and visions of clumpy, lumpy, dry polenta. Today we're sharing our perfectly creamy, parmesan-laced, soul-satisfyingly simple polenta recipe.

Cheesy, Creamy, Cozy, Autumnal Comfort in a Bowl. 

Nothing says fall like a big bowl of creamy, buttery yellow, Parmesan-spiked polenta. Whether you top it with an elaborate Rosso buco, or simply a poached egg and a little more Parm, it’s Northern Italian comfort food at its soothing, bone-warming best. Plus—despite numerous reports to the contrary—we promise it’s easy to make. If you can make oatmeal, you can make polenta.     

Ingredients for polenta laid out, parmesan, broth, milk, butter corn meal

What Is Polenta?

Polenta is made of cornmeal—the same stuff that grits are made from, or that you’d use to make cornbread—it’s really as simple as that. Polenta originated in Northern Italy, though, and food historians believe that the dish polenta predates the arrival of corn in Europe, and in fact dates back to antiquity, when it would have likely been made with native Italian grains like coarsely ground chestnut flour or barley. Once maize was introduced in the 17th century, however, polenta became synonymous in Italy with a porridge made specifically from cornmeal. 

All of Your Burning Polenta Questions—Answered! 

What is the correct polenta ratio? 

With two cups of milk and four cups of broth to just one cup of polenta, our preferred polenta ratio is a whopping 6:1. One of the biggest polenta mistakes people make is not using enough liquid. Trust us on this one—6:1 is the polenta ratio that will give you the creamiest, best polenta.

Is polenta healthy? 

Plain polenta, cooked in stock or water, is a relatively low-calorie, whole grain that offers lots of fiber and even some iron and protein. Also, polenta usually stands in for a simple carbohydrates—like pasta or rice—as a filling base for flavorful dishes like this chimichurri shrimp, and it’s definitely a healthier choice than plain pasta. However, our basic polenta recipe uses whole milk, a stick of butter and parmesan cheese so, while we can promise that this polenta will be delicious, we can’t promise that it counts as health food. 

Is polenta gluten-free? 

Polenta is just a savory porridge—in the case of this polenta recipe, super-savory—made from cornmeal, so yes polenta is gluten free! However, if you’re making this for someone with Celiac disease, be sure that the polenta you buy is labeled “gluten free” so that you can be sure there hasn’t been any cross-contamination with wheat.  

creamy parmesan polenta in a pot with a wooden spoon

How to Make Polenta

A sunshine-hued bowl of creamy, cheesy polenta is one of the simplest joys of this dreary, drizzly season. We’re so excited to teach you how to cook polenta—try it just once, and we bet you’ll be able to make this polenta recipe from memory afterwards, it really is that easy. Here’s how to make polenta: 

  1. Boil! Grab your favorite stock pot and fill it with the whole milk and stock. Bring them to a strong simmer over medium heat. 
  2. Pour in the polenta, but do it carefully. Marcella Hazan, the doyenne of classic Italian cooking herself, says “you should be able to see the individual grains spilling into the pot.” In other words, pour the cornmeal into the simmering milk-stock mixture very slowly, and whisk it as you pour. 
  3. Whisk! Whisk the polenta consistently as it simmers to prevent lumps. As it thickens—after the first ten minutes or so—switch from a whisk to a regular wooden spoon.  
  4. Make it creamy! When the polenta begins to pull away from the pot, it’s done and ready for you to stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. This is also your opportunity to season the polenta with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Gobble! Serve the polenta right away. 
A bowl of creamy polenta  with parmesan cheese in a bowl next to it.

What to Serve With Polenta

Polenta is delicious on its own. A big bowl of this cheesy polenta makes a cozy breakfast on a winter morning or a soothingly simple lunch—try it with a little gorgonzola stirred into it. Top it with a fried or poached egg and a little more Parmesan cheese and it’s even more filling. 

We also love it with: 

Tools You’ll Need: 

A bowl of creamy parmesan polenta in a bowl

How Did You Serve It? 

Although we’re calling this a basic polenta recipe, really good polenta is anything but basic. It’s comforting and classic, and we hope you love it as much as we do! Let us know how you served it! Snap a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

Creamy Polenta Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup polenta
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
4 oz butter (1 stick)
8 oz Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Method

  1. I a medium-sized post (at least 3 quarts) bring chicken stock and milk to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Add the polenta and simmer until tender and creamy about 30-40 minutes.
  3. Add the butter and parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.