Creamy Polenta Recipe – CucinaByElena

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Easy Creamy Polenta Recipe Authentic Italian. The possibilities are endless with this comforting, creamy, smooth, and sensational Italian polenta recipe. With only 5 ingredients and 10 minutes, you will have the perfect side to any meal.

This is the authentic Italian way we make homemade polenta in Italy. It is simple and rustic, and I know you will love it too! This is the best easy, fool-proof polenta recipe that is comforting and versatile.

More polenta recipes: Polenta and Mushrooms (with sage and butter) and Creamy Polenta with Polpette al Sugo (meatballs in tomato sauce), or try it with our favorite meat sauces: BEST Italian Beef Short Rib Ragu, Easy Italian Sausage and Peppers Skillet Italian Braciole (Stuffed Beef with Sauce), and Classic Italian Ragu.

creamy polenta in a large grey bowl.
Creamy, Cozy, Comforting side dish or meal
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Serve with Sautéed Green Beans Recipe (Easy), Pan Seared Shrimp, or Crispy Brussels Sprouts Recipe.

Simple Ingredients

This polenta recipe is made with simple ingredients and comes together in little time.

ingredient shot for recipe
  • Polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
  • Water
  • Sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • Parmigiano or parmesan cheese
  • Heavy cream or whole milk

How to Make This Easy Creamy Italian Polenta Recipe

Making authentic Italian polenta is easier than you think with this easy method. It requires a few steps and provides the best results for creamy polenta!

Making this basic polenta recipe is almost as easy as boiling spaghetti! See my guide for How Long to Boil Spaghetti (pasta)- Perfect Every Time. Okay, back to making this easy and creamy polenta.

Boil water with salt in a medium saucepan or large saucepan if doubling the recipe. Add polenta and stir vigorously.

Stir on medium-high heat for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Turn to low heat and keep stirring thickened polenta for another minute or two.

adding poneta to hot water and stiring.
stiring with just adding water to polenta .

Constant stirring is important so the polenta doesn’t clump. Stir with our handmade custom wooden spoon. Make sure you use salted water to flavor the polenta. adjust salt if using chicken or veggie stock.

Take off the heat and add oil, parmigiano, and heavy cream. Stir until combined and creamy texture.

adding cheese, cream, and butter to polenta
final polenta in pot ready to eat.

Tip: Make sure to grate your own cheese. Ready why here: TOP 5 Reasons Why You Should Grate Your Own Cheese. Top the cooked polenta with extra cheese and enjoy plain or as a side dish.

Tip: Polenta can dry out quickly and even become hard. Make sure to serve hot and keep covered. You can always reheat and add a little more liquid to make the soft polenta again.

creamy polenta in a saucepan with a wooden spoon.

What is Polenta?

Polenta is a popular Italian dish in the north of Italy made of ground corn. Freshly cooked, polenta is soft and creamy, like a savory porridge, and makes a terrific bed for sauces. The good news is: it is super easy to make!

Polenta a staple in Italian cuisine (almost like mashed potatoes in American cuisine). Every family has a way to make their own.

Polenta is incredibly easy to make and can be made in a variety of ways, from soft creamy polenta like this recipe, or even fried up and served as a cake.  

This recipe will give you the best polenta every single time and makes a perfect side dish to any main entree. Add this cheesy polenta an addition to your next favorite meal!

polenta in a bowl on a wooden cutting board with spoon in polenta.

Purchase our 2-in-1 cutting and charcuterie board seen in this photo.

Variations to Authentic Italian Polenta Recipe

There are countless ways to enhance the flavor of this dish- think of it as a blank canvas.

  • Spicy- add some red pepper flakes to kick it up a notch or some freshly ground black pepper
  • Herbs- sprinkle oregano
  • Cheese- add different varieties of cheese that melt well and add flavor
  • Onions and Garlic- sauté some onion and garlic in the pan with olive oil before making the polenta
  • Chicken stock or chicken broth- for added flavor you can use chicken stock or vegetable
  • Whole Milk– use whole milk instead of cream to cut a few calories

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Store Polenta

Store cooked polenta in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. After the polenta cools cover it with plastic wrap until ready to transfer to storage containers.

How to Reheat Polenta

To reheat leftover polenta simply add the desired amount of polenta back into a medium-sized pot over low heat and add in about a 1/2 cup of warm chicken or vegetable stock.  You may need more chicken stock to turn it back into a creamy and perfect consistency.

Can This Recipe Be Made Dairy Free?

Making polenta dairy free is easy. Instead of adding cream at the end use a dairy-free milk alternative or coconut cream for a flavor change! For the cheese and butter, you can substitute your favorite dairy-free or vegan variety. For this recipe, you can use butter and olive oil interchangeably.

What is polenta?

Polenta is a popular Italian dish in the north of Italy made of ground corn. Freshly cooked, polenta is soft and creamy, like a savory porridge, and makes a terrific bed for sauces. Polenta a staple in Italian cuisine like mashed potatoes in American cuisine. Every family has a way to make their own in a variety of ways, from soft creamy polenta like this recipe, or even fried up and served as a cake.  

Where can I buy Italian polenta?

You can now find polenta at almost any grocery store. If you can’t here are some kinds I recommend that you can purchase online:
Colavita
Roland from Italy
DeLallo
Bob Redmill

Why use finely ground polenta?

I like the instant or fine ground polenta or cornmeal variety for the super smooth result it provides. Some recipes say to buy the course ground and use a food processor to make it finer. I’d rather save my time and there actually isn’t much of a price difference. If you want to make the course ground polenta you can certainly do so and will just adjust the liquid! 

What is the polenta to water ratio?

Super creamy polenta uses a ratio of 4:1 liquid to cornmeal. The more traditional polenta version uses 3:1 liquid to cornmeal. You can also do it somewhere in between. Try this recipe and see which variation you prefer. You really can’t go wrong.

bowl of creamy polenta with spoon in it.

Cooking Variations for Italian Polenta

Variations provided by Bob’s Redmill Polenta.

Creamy Polenta
  1. Make as directed in the main recipe, using 2 cups water and 2 cups milk, and cook for 30 minutes.
Cheesy Polenta
  1. Make as directed in the main recipe and cook for 30 minutes, stirring in 1 cup of shredded mozzarella before serving.
Slower Cooker Polenta
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5–6 hours or high for 1–1 ½ hours.
Multi-Cooker
  1. Place 1 cup polenta, 3 ½ cups water, and ¾ tsp salt in the pot of a multi-cooker. Set the valve to sealing. On manual setting and high pressure, set for 10 minutes. Natural release the pressure for 15 minutes.

How to Make Fried Polenta

Make Parmigiano or Parmesan Polenta: Make as directed in the main recipe and cook for 30 minutes, stirring in 1 cup of shredded parmigiano or parmesan before serving. 

Fried Polenta: Transfer Parmesan Polenta to a plastic-lined 8 x 8-inch pan and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. To fry, unmold polenta and cut into 12–16 rectangles. Heat oil, ½-inch deep, to 350°F. Or you can also try these Baked Polenta Fries!

Working in batches, fry polenta until golden, about 3–5 minutes per side. Remove from oil using a slotted spatula or spoon and let drain on paper towels.

If necessary, keep warm in a 200°F oven. Serve with tomato sauce or your favorite toppings.

Polenta is a great side dish for those that are gluten-free since it is made with corn.

Can you make polenta dairy free? Yes! See the instructions in the FAQ section.

What to Serve with Polenta

Enjoy this easy polenta with these recipes: Tuscan style Osso Buco, seared scallops in lemon butter, baked zucchini with bruschetta topping, polpette con sugo, ratatouille, chicken tarragon, or chicken braised in red wine and plums!

Sometimes, I eat a big bowl with plenty of parmigiano cheese on top and it is so comforting.

There are many different ways to enjoy polenta. Here are two great recipes.

Savory Mushrooms with Butter Sage Over Creamy Polenta. This meal is under 30 minutes and will have you craving all the herby hearty goodness of mushrooms.

The mushrooms simmer slightly with onions then get a bath of butter and delicious sage leaves to highlight their delicious flavor.

Mushroom polenta in a grey bowl.
Creamy polenta with sage butter and mushrooms

Nonna’s famous traditional Italian meatballs in tomato sauce (polpette al sugo pomodoro) are my nonna’s famous recipe. Made with simple ingredients and stewed in a delicious tomato sauce.

Italian polenta with sauce and meatballs in a red pot.
Polenta with traditional Italian meatballs
creamy polenta on a marble background with a spoon on the side.
Delicious bite from a wooden spoon!

More Delicious Recipes:

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creamy polenta in a large grey bowl.

Easy Polenta Recipe

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5 from 5 reviews

The possibilities are endless with this comforting, creamy, smooth, and sensational Italian polenta recipe. With only 4 ingredients and 5 minutes you will have the perfect side to any meal. Polenta is a true Italian speciality! Serve as a side or enjoy plain with added soft cheese of choice!

  • Total Time: 10
  • Yield: 8 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 16 oz. (1 lb.) quick cooking yellow corn polenta (if you use coarse ground adjust liquid)
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, or whole milk

Instructions

  1. Boil water with salt in a medium-large pot. Add polenta and stir vigorously. Stir on medium-high heat for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Turn to low heat and keep stirring for another minute or two.
  2. Take off the heat and add olive oil or butter, parmigiano, and heavy cream. Stir until combined and creamy texture.
  3. Sprinkle with extra cheese and enjoy plain or as a side dish. 

Notes

Variations

Creamy Polenta
  1. Make as directed in the main recipe, using 2 cups water and 2 cups milk, and cook for 30 minutes.
Cheesy Polenta
  1. Make as directed in the main recipe and cook for 30 minutes, stirring in 1 cup of shredded mozzarella before serving.
Slow Cooker
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5–6 hours or high for 1–1 ½ hours.
Multi-Cooker
  1. Place 1 cup polenta, 3 ½ cups water, and ¾ tsp salt in the pot of a multi-cooker. Set the valve to sealing. On manual setting and high pressure, set for 10 minutes. Natural release the pressure for 15 minutes.

How to Make Fried Polenta

Make Parmigiano or Parmesan Polenta: Make as directed in the main recipe and cook for 30 minutes, stirring in 1 cup of shredded parmigiano or parmesan before serving. 

Fried Polenta: Transfer Parmesan Polenta to a plastic-lined 8 x 8-inch pan and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. To fry, unmold polenta and cut into 12–16 rectangles. Heat oil, ½-inch deep, to 350°F.

Working in batches, fry polenta until golden, about 3–5 minutes per side. Remove from oil using a slotted spatula or spoon and let drain on paper towels.

If necessary, keep warm in a 200°F oven. Serve with tomato sauce or your favorite toppings.

TIPS

It is important to use FINE yellow cornmeal in this recipe. If you use coarse ground adjust the liquid. 

Constant stirring is important so the polenta doesn’t clump. Stir with our handmade custom wooden spoon. Make sure you use salted water to flavor the polenta. adjust salt if using chicken or veggie stock.

Make sure to grate your own cheese. Ready why here: TOP 5 Reasons Why You Should Grate Your Own Cheese.

Polenta can dry out quickly and even become hard. Make sure to serve hot and keep covered. You can always reheat and add a little more liquid to make the soft polenta again.

What to Serve with Polenta 

Polenta and Mushrooms (with sage and butter) and Creamy Polenta with Polpette al Sugo (meatballs in tomato sauce), or try it with our favorite meat sauces: BEST Italian Beef Short Rib Ragu, Easy Italian Sausage and Peppers Skillet Recipe and Classic Italian Ragu Recipe.

  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 5
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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9 Comments

  1. So easy to make and delicious! Didn’t realize it made so many servings until afterward I made it for just me and my husband but good to know going forward if I am serving a lot of people!