Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

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.


  • 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


  • 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.


Rate or Review

Reviews (5 reviews)

  • user-4512843 | 08/09/2020

    kathymcmo | Korithensch.....

  • Krispie | 09/23/2019

    I made the version with the marscapone and Parmesan and it was delicious. I failed to salt the polenta at the very end but we salted. It individually and it was perfect. I did have to add quite a bit more water during the cooking process because it stuck to the bottom and didn’t get creamy as quickly as I thought it would. I will definately make again.

Show More

Rate this Recipe

Write a Review

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 50%

Already a subscriber? Log in.


View All


Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.

Start your FREE trial