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Soft Polenta

6 Servings

1¾ hours 10 minutes active

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Polenta, a savory cornmeal porridge, can be a disappointment in the U.S., tasting mostly of the cheese and fat that weigh it down. Not to mention it requires near-constant whisking to get a lump-free consistency. But in Cossano Belbo, Italy, we learned a better way from Maria Teresa Marino, whose family has run a grain mill for centuries: No cheese, no butter, not much stirring. The porridge was light and fresh and the taste of the corn shined through. We followed that lead, using more water than called for in conventional recipes—11 cups. Combining the cornmeal with cold, not boiling, water, then bringing the entire pot to a simmer, prevented clumping. We finished cooking the polenta in the oven rather than the stovetop, which gave us for more consistent, gentle heat. For the best flavor and texture, use coarse stone-ground cornmeal; fine cornmeal produced pasty, gluey polenta, while steel-ground cornmeal had less flavor. We liked Bob’s Red Mill coarse-grind cornmeal and its polenta corn grits, but found that different brands can cook up with slightly different consistencies. The finished polenta should be pourable; if it’s too thick, thin it with water as needed. It’s good on its own or as a side to braised meats.




Don't use white cornmeal. Its flavor is milder and than yellow cornmeal. In Italy, it is used mostly for sweet preparations. And don't skip the whisk for stirring the polenta as it cooks; its wires are more effective than a wooden spoon for breaking up lumps.

1¾ hours

10 minutes active


  • 2

    cups coarse stoneground yellow cornmeal (see note)

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper


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March 28, 2024
Loved this
Made this and loved it. Had some cream I needed to use so I added that....probably 1/4 cup. Wonderful with the suggested tomato sauce.
Dawne G.
March 18, 2024
Super easy. Super delicious.
This is by far the easiest way to make polenta. I wasn’t looking for soft polenta so reduced the water to 10 cups and was perfect for the meal.
Kathy H.
October 19, 2023
Wonderfully delicious!
Love this recipe! It makes the most creamiest polenta.
Karla F.
May 2, 2023
In the email, you said the recipe had boiling salted water, then sprinkle in coarse cornmeal, then return to a boil and stir vigorously for ten minutes, then cover, lower heat and walk away. After an hours, stir vigorously for a few minutes and it's done. In this recipe, you start with cold water. So, which is the right recipe here?
Mike S.
October 8, 2022
if I wanted to increase the polenta to 3 cups, would I factor the water by the same percentage, 16 cups of water to 3 cups of polenta?
Mary L.

This polenta was delicious! But the spicy tomato cause was out of this world!!!

Elizabeth R.

This recipe with the spicy tomato sauce is now one of our family's go-to dinners. The best in comfort food!

Craig B.

The recipe is great. Mine benefited from an extra ten minutes of cooling, perhaps because of my oven. Do you think you can get some actual Italian polenta in stock at your store? Stone ground American cornmeal is good, but I don't think it quite matches the flavor and texture of Italian polenta. My fancy supermarket in the Northeast of the US, did not have any boxes or bags of uncooked polenta in stock.