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Shortcut Polenta

Scott Phillips

Servings: 9

Making soft, golden polenta with the traditional Italian method usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. But this genius shortcut—pouring boiling water over the polenta in the morning and letting it sit on the counter during the workday—cuts the cooking time down to less than 15 minutes. Polenta is wonderfully forgiving: You can adjust the texture by adding a little more broth or water for a looser result, or cook the polenta longer, stirring often at the end, if you like it thicker.


  • 11 oz. (2 cups) polenta (not instant or quick-cooking)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups lower-salt chicken broth or water; more as needed
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 oz. (2 cups) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving
  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 240
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 70
  • Fat (g): 7
  • Saturated Fat (g): 4
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Cholesterol (mg): 20
  • Sodium (mg): 430
  • Carbohydrates (g): 34
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 8


Soak the polenta

  • Put the polenta in a 4-quart heavy-duty saucepan and whisk in the boiling water. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

Cook the polenta

  • In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Whisk the broth and 1 tsp. salt into the polenta, loosening it and breaking up any clumps. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking once or twice, about 5 minutes.
  • Turn the heat down to maintain a simmer and continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the polenta thickens from soupy to porridge-like, about 2 minutes.
  • Turn the heat down to low. Cover and cook, stirring vigorously and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula every couple of minutes. When you can see the bottom of the pan as you drag the spoon across it, 5 to 10 minutes later, begin tasting the polenta; it’s done when it’s thick, creamy, and tender. It should be granular, but not gritty.
  • Remove from the heat, and stir in the cheese, butter, and 1/2 tsp. pepper until the butter is melted. Season to taste and serve right away, passing more cheese at the table.

Make Ahead Tips

Once soaked, the polenta can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days before cooking.


Rate or Review


  • awomansconed | 03/25/2018

    good advice would be to use medium grind cornmeal...not the coarser one marked polenta...found it does take a bit longer to cook, even when soaked for 8 hours...but have made with good results. Pour the soft polenta into a greased dish to cool down for firmer texture...can cut and reheat after: with more cheese!

  • divi2 | 01/23/2016

    I have made this recipe many times and always had great results. I love the fact that I can soak the polenta before I go to work and have dinner WITHOUT standing at the stove stirring for an hour. I always seem to make the basic shortcut recipe - fabulous by the way. Very cheesy. I have even used the soak recipe to make it plain worked beautifully.

  • Stasia | 03/30/2015

    So disappointing. Not nearly enough liquid for the polenta to cook through, had to add more, and then cook more minutes while whisking. Honestly, what a headache! Following the standard directions on the bag of "Golden Pheasant" polenta would have been far less time-consuming, or could have just followed their microwave directions which I have done in the past. Wish I did!!

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