The Simple Addition That Will Instantly Enrich Your Polenta

Most of us have heard of polenta, but perhaps we're not as familiar with it as we are with the foods it's often compared to, like cornmeal or grits. Polenta is an Italian comfort food dish that's made of ground cornmeal and is traditionally served simply, often as hot porridge or topped with butter and cheese, per La Cucina Italiana. It has a mild corn flavor and is incredibly versatile, as it can be served as a side dish or a main course. Often compared to grits and cornmeal, what sets polenta apart is the consistency and texture of the grain, according to The Pioneer Woman

Cornmeal and grits are both more finely ground, whereas polenta is a coarsely ground grain. Additionally, grits have a thin consistency when served, whereas polenta is thicker and creamier. While you can take a shortcut and purchase instant polenta or a ready-made log at your grocery store, making it at home is pretty straightforward. If you're up to the challenge of preparing it from scratch, this simple polenta recipe is a great place to start. Once you get the basics down, there's a simple ingredient that you can add to your polenta to make it incredibly rich and satisfying.

Stir in a few tablespoons of mascarpone cheese

When making polenta from scratch, elevate the flavors of your dish and create a richer polenta by adding mascarpone cheese, as recommended by Food & Wine. Somewhat similar to cream cheese, mascarpone has a silky smooth texture and is high in saturated fat, which helps give savory dishes like polenta a richer texture and flavor (via The Spruce Eats). Try this recipe for mascarpone polenta with wild mushrooms for an umami explosion.

There are numerous ways to jazz up a dish of polenta, and while many of them are savory, you can even serve it for breakfast topped with fruit and honey for a sweet alternative to oatmeal, per Food52. Regardless of the recipe, you choose to follow, many chefs say the secret to great polenta is the cornmeal itself. Look for high-quality stone-ground polenta, as recommended by the Chicago Tribune, and a coarsely-cut grain that's roughly the size of couscous for the ideal creamy, al dente texture.