- 5 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch baking soda
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut in four pieces
- 4 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated (preferably with a microplane)
Polenta may be the Italian dish most feared by home cooks. But it’s actually really easy to make!
1. Bring the water to a boil in a pot or saucepan. If you have a shallow saucepan with sloping sides, using it will makes it easier to stir the polenta. We love to use our shallow Le Creuset pan for polenta – its heavy cast iron evenly transmits the gentle simmering heat to the polenta and the enameled coating helps prevent the polenta from sticking to the pan.
2. Combine the polenta, salt and baking soda in your measuring cup. The baking soda, while not traditional, helps break down the polenta and reduce the amount of stirring required during cooking. It also doesn’t change the way the polenta tastes, so we always add it.
3. Pour the polenta mixture into the boiling water in a thin stream, stirring the stream into the water using a whisk. This is the only “trick” to making polenta. The thin stream and the whisking keep the polenta from clumping.
4. Bring the polenta mixture back to a boil. If you’ve used a heavy pan, this shouldn’t take more than a minute. Then, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. After five minutes, remove the lid and stir, making sure to incorporate any water floating on top of the polenta and scraping any polenta sticking to the bottom and corners of your pan.
5. If you are using a fine-grained polenta like the Mais Del Palladio we have pictured, cook for another 15 minutes (20 minutes total). For a more coarse-ground polenta, cook for another 20-25 minutes (25-30 minutes total).
6. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and grated parmesan. Scrape the bottom and corners of the pan again to incorporate anything stuck there.
7. Cover the pan and let the polenta rest for 3-5 minutes. Then spoon it onto plates and top with your favorite topping. We love polenta with almost anything – tomato sauce, garlicky beans and broccoli, grilled fish and more! Enjoy!
Hint: Whether you like your polenta more runny or more thick is a matter of personal preference. Make it however you like it. If the polenta is more runny than you would like after stirring in the butter and cheese in step 6, let it rest with the lid off (rather than the lid on). This will cause the polenta to thicken. If it was too thick, stir in a bit of water.