Creamy Polenta Recipe

While corn may be a product of the Americas, northern Italy has also adopted this staple ingredient. The Italians came up with their own version of cornmeal mush, one that goes by the admittedly more appetizing name of polenta.

According to recipe developer Melissa Olivieri, this polenta recipe "is incredibly simple to make" as it utilizes the oven for much of the cooking, rather than having you constantly stir over the stove. She describes the dish as thick and creamy when fresh out of the oven, but says it will get firmer once it sits a bit. In fact, as she tells us, "a lot of people like to eat [polenta] once it's cooled; they will pan-fry it with some oil."

While polenta isn't exactly flavor-packed on its own, Olivieri notes that it "will take on any flavoring you add to it," which is in part what makes it such a great dish. Here she uses shallots, garlic, and Parmesan, but you could also add herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, and dried chiles.

Assemble the ingredients for your creamy polenta

The main ingredient you need for polenta is cornmeal, and if your grocery store offers a choice, Olivieri notes that "coarse-ground is best." You'll also need butter, salt, pepper, and chicken broth for cooking (you can use vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian), and in this recipe you'll flavor your polenta with garlic, shallots, and grated Parmesan. Olivieri also likes to top hers off with a bit of tomato sauce, though this is entirely optional.

Sauté the aromatics

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in an oven-proof saucepan or pot over medium-high heat, then add the shallots and some salt. Cook the shallots until they start to get soft; this should take 3 to 5 minutes. At that point, add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, until it's fragrant but not yet browned.

Start the polenta on the stovetop

Pour the broth into the pan with the sautéed aromatics, then turn the heat up and bring it to a boil. Once the broth is boiling, slowly pour in the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Turn the heat off under the pan, then cover it with an oven-proof lid. Don't have one? No problem; just use a piece of aluminum foil to tightly cover the pan.

Bake and finish off the polenta

Bake the polenta at 350 F for 15 minutes, then take it out of the oven and stir it up. Olivieri warns that "it may spatter," so be careful. Put the lid back on the pan, then stick it back in the oven and bake it for 10 more minutes. Remove it from the oven, then stir in the Parmesan, salt, pepper, and remaining butter — along with any additional seasonings you'd like to add.

Olivieri says she likes to eat her polenta while it's warm with tomato sauce, and suggests a salad to serve alongside. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, and you can eat them cold or reheated. Another thing you can do with your leftover polenta, she suggests, is to "press it into a baking dish and set [it] in the fridge." Then, you can cut the hardened polenta into slices and fry them.

Creamy Polenta Recipe
5 from 23 ratings
Learn how to make a staple dish of northern Italy, which turns the humble cornmeal into a decadent, creamy porridge. Save some leftovers for slicing and frying!
Prep Time
Cook Time
polenta with tomato sauce
Total time: 40 minutes
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cornmeal, preferably coarse-ground
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Optional Ingredients
  • Tomato sauce, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the shallots to the melted butter with ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until shallots start to soften.
  4. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until fragrant but not yet browned.
  5. Pour the broth into the pan and turn the heat to high. Let mixture come to a boil.
  6. Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring or whisking constantly. Once all cornmeal has been added, turn off the heat.
  7. Place a lid on the pan and transfer to the oven.
  8. Cook the polenta for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven, uncover, and stir the polenta.
  10. Replace the lid and return the polenta to the oven for 10 additional minutes.
  11. Remove the polenta from the oven and mix in the rest of the butter along with the Parmesan, remaining teaspoon of salt, and pepper.
  12. Serve warm with tomato sauce (if desired), or press into a baking dish, chill, and slice hardened polenta for frying or sautéing.
Calories per Serving 416
Total Fat 18.3 g
Saturated Fat 9.9 g
Trans Fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol 45.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 47.7 g
Dietary Fiber 2.6 g
Total Sugars 7.8 g
Sodium 916.4 mg
Protein 14.7 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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