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Recipe

Basic Soft Polenta

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4-6 as a side dish

We tested this recipe with Quaker brand cornmeal; coarser cornmeal will need a slightly longer cooking time. Try topping the polenta with ratatouille, beef stew, or a chicken fricassée.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter

Nutritional Information

      Nutritional Sample Size based on six servings
      Calories (kcal) : 120
      Fat Calories (kcal): 40
      Fat (g): 4
      Saturated Fat (g): 2.5
      Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5
      Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1
      Cholesterol (mg): 10
      Sodium (mg): 780
      Carbohydrates (g): 18
      Fiber (g): 2
      Protein (g): 2

Preparation

  • In a heavy stainless-steel 3-quart saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the salt and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve.
  • When the salted water is boiling, gradually add the cornmeal in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly. This is important; if you pour in the cornmeal too quickly, lumps may form. When all the cornmeal has been added, lower the heat to maintain a slow simmer.
  • Cook, whisking occasionally to prevent sticking, and scraping the inside of the pot with a rubber spatula to incorporate any cornmeal that does stick. The polenta will bubble and spurt a bit.
  • If the polenta gets too thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, add a little warm water. The polenta is done when it’s very thick and creamy, with a texture that’s slightly rough but not gritty, 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the cornmeal. Taste a bit to check the texture. If it’s still gritty, add a little more water and continue cooking until the texture has softened. Stir in the butter, if using, and add more salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Mascarpone & Parmigiano Polenta: Omit butter, and gently whisk in 1/2 cup mascarpone in its place. Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Thin the polenta with up to 1/2 cup water, if you like; add salt to taste. Scoop the polenta into a serving bowl, sprinkle with another 1 Tbs. of Parmigiano, and serve.

Polenta Rosa: Put 1 cup canned diced tomatoes in a fine sieve, set it over a bowl, and shake it to drain as much liquid as possible. Put the tomato liquid in a measuring cup; add water to get 4 cups total liquid. Pour the liquid into a heavy stainless-steel 3-quart saucepan, and proceed with the basic recipe, omitting the butter. When the polenta is thick and creamy, set it over low heat, and whisk in 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced. Add 1/4 cup tomato paste (preferably Italian) and the canned diced tomatoes. Add 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano, and salt to taste.

Reviews

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Reviews

  • cozette | 04/02/2015

    I cooked the cornmeal (Pheasant brand polenta) in half water and half whole milk. (Keep an eye on it at the boil point, or it will boil over.) I thinned during the cooking process with some cream and some milk. After cooking, I added some minced basil I had frozen in olive oil, some fresh minced rosemary and grated Parmesan. Delicious! My husband, who doesn't care for polenta, even liked it.

  • cribjon | 11/15/2012

    Very easy to make. not as rich as polenta made with cream. Use the Mascarpone & Parmigiano or Rosa variations for a stand alone side. Basic is best served with dishes that have sauces or gravies.

  • kathymcmo | 11/25/2007

    Looks like a good recipe, albeit with two typos (maintain spelled wrong in second paragraph and bubble spelled as "bibble.") Copy editor missed this article!

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