My Nonni's
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My Nonni's Polenta

*Serves 6


  • 10 cups water
  • Tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 cups polenta (coarse yellow cornmeal)
  • ¼ cup olive oil

*Optional ingredients:

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) butter
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese

Cooking Instructions

  • Put 10 cups cold water in a heavy-bottom pot with the olive oil and salt. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the polenta to the water in a gentle stream, whisking or stirring vigorously in the same direction, as you pour it in.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low so that the water is simmering.
  • Stir continuously for the first 2-3 minutes to avoid any lumps.
  • When the polenta starts to mildly bubble away, stir it every few minutes to prevent it from sticking. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom and sides. Adjust the heat as necessary.
  • Cook for 35- 40 minutes. The polenta mixture will be thick and glossy and just pulling away from the sides.
  • To finish the polenta, turn off the heat and stir in cheese. You can also add the butter and mascarpone cheese.

Cooking tips:

  • The more you stir, the better the texture will be.
  • Cooking it longer will add more flavor.
  • Mix in more water if you want it softer, or turn up the heat, stirring vigorously, to thicken it.
  • Low-sodium chicken broth can be substituted for the water for a different taste. Use less salt to taste.
  • Polenta retains heat for up to 30 minutes, so you can cover the pot and leave it for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Variations for Basic Polenta:

Basic Polenta with Cheese and Meat Sauce

When we were young, we would scoop some hot polenta into our dishes, put a slice of soft Monterey Jack cheese or Gorgonzola on top. Top that off with more polenta and then pour some of My Nonni’s Meat Sauce over.

Fried Polenta

  • Make basic polenta recipe and pour into a 9 X 13 baking dish and chill.
  • Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  • Remove polenta and slice into ½ inch thick by 3-inches wide slices.
  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add polenta slices and cook, turning once, until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Put polenta fried slices on paper towels on a dish and keep warm in 200 degree oven while you continue to fry.
  • Be careful, the polenta will splatter while frying.
  • If you have left-over polenta, pour into a baking dish and refrigerate. Unmold and slice.
  • We used to love pouring syrup over the fried polenta for a breakfast treat.
  • You can also serve it for a lunch or dinner side dish with My Nonni’s Meat Sauce over it.

Baked Polenta

  • Make basic polenta recipe and chill polenta in a 9 X 13 baking dish.
  • Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Slice or cube polenta and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and crispy. Turn polenta once half-way thru baking.

Grilled Polenta

  • Make basic polenta recipe and chill polenta in a 9 X 13 baking dish.
  • Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  • Slice or cube polenta and brush both sides of polenta with olive oil.
  • Place on a hot grill and cook, turning once until well marked and heated through – about 2 minutes on each side.

Creamy Polenta (Serves 4-6)


  • 3 cups of whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup polenta (coarse yellow cornmeal)

Cooking Instructions:

  • Combine milk, butter, sugar and salt in a heavy-bottom saucepan and heat just to a simmer.
  • Slowly add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking in the same direction constantly.
  • Lower heat to medium-low and continue to stir the polenta with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to thicken and mildly perk.
  • Stir mixture every few seconds, scraping the bottom and sides of pan.
  • Cook 25-30 minutes

Polenta with Mascarpone (Serves 4)


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons instant polenta
  • Salt / Pepper
  • ½ pound Mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Cooking Instructions:

  • Bring milk to a boil in a saucepan.
  • Add polenta, salt, pepper.
  • Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
  • Add mascarpone and cream.
  • Continue cooking until cheese melts, 2-3 minutes.

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From Tuscany with love