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Grandma Style Polenta Recipe

If you have been looking for the perfect creamy polenta recipe, look no further! This authentic Italian polenta is made with rich chicken broth, fine cornmeal, and plenty of grated parmesan cheese.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Polenta is an incredible side dish that goes with just about anything. Serve polenta at breakfast with some fried eggs or at dinner paired with Italian veal saltimbocca alla Romana. You can also just sprinkle some extra parmigiano reggiano cheese on top of warm polenta and call it a meal! This quick and easy polenta recipe is perfect for any time of day.

polenta with fresh thyme photo credit:

Easy Creamy Polenta Recipe

Polenta is a classic cornmeal side dish that originally comes from Northern Italy. The coarse grain dish has been eaten since Roman times and was originally made from a variety of grains like farro, millet, and ground chickpeas. Now polenta is made mostly with ground cornmeal like our easy, creamy polenta recipe.

Making the perfect polenta is actually extremely easy, especially when you use our simple recipe. All you need to do is boil, whisk, and cook! But we will break down this recipe for you in a little bit more detail so you know exactly how to make polenta from start to finish. Once you master this recipe, you can make this traditional Italian dish anytime! And you definitely should because creamy polenta is always a huge hit at the dinner table.

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Ingredients for Creamy Polenta

Classic polenta is made with very basic ingredients. Take a look at exactly what you need to make polenta and read our little tips and tricks for each ingredient. This will seriously help you create the creamiest polenta ever.

  • Chicken broth – Chicken stock or vegetable broth will also work perfectly. Using broth and stock add a rich, complex taste to the polenta that gives the savory side dish even more flavor.

  • Milk – Any kind of milk will work in this recipe. We like to use whole milk which gives the thickened polenta a rich flavor.

  • Salt – Salt enhances the flavor of the polenta.

  • Cornmeal – One trick to making creamy polenta is to use finely ground cornmeal. The fine cornmeal is nice and small so it will almost melt into the liquid. You can use coarse cornmeal or medium grind cornmeal but these will change the texture of the polenta, making the cornmeal mush a little thicker.

  • Butter – Unsalted butter is best for this recipe since salt is added to the recipe already. You can replace the butter with extra virgin olive oil but it will not have quite the same creamy texture.

  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese – Whisking a classic Italian cheese into the hot polenta melts the cheese and makes the polenta extra creamy.

  • Parsley – Sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over your cooked polenta as a perfect Italian garnish.


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Here are a few ingredient substitutes and variations you may want to try. These tweaks will help you create perfect polenta, customized for your specific meal.

  • Replace the parmesan cheese with pecorino romano, cheddar cheese, or even feta cheese. Choose a cheese that matches your accompanying foods.

  • Use vegetable broth to make the vegetarian polenta

  • Add freshly chopped basil, rosemary, red pepper flakes, ground black pepper or dried Italian seasoning to add flavor to your polenta.

  • Cook the polenta for about 5 minutes longer so it is very thick. Press the mix into a baking dish and let cool. Then, slice the polenta into strips or squares and pan fry. This is an easy way to make polenta that you can pick up and eat by hand!

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How to Make Polenta

Making a classic polenta is very simple. With just a few ingredients you can create a perfect Italian dish! Making polenta does take a little bit of hands-on time, especially if you want to make a polenta with a creamy texture. No lumpy polenta allowed here! So what is the secret? Whisking!

The most important step in cooking polenta is whisking constantly as you slowly stir the cornmeal into the boiling water mixture. This ensures that there are no lumps and that the corn flour is blended evenly into the liquid. If you want smooth, soft polenta, you need to add all the cornmeal slowly and whisk, whisk, whisk! No wooden spoon for stirring this recipe- you need that whisk.

Also, make sure you only cook your polenta until it reaches your desired consistency. Once the polenta starts to pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir, it is pretty much done!

For a smoother polenta, cook the mix for a little less time (but don’t forget that constant stirring!). If you want a thicker, sliceable polenta, simply cook the polenta a little longer. Both textures are delicious, it all depends on what you want and how you’d like to eat polenta with your meal.

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Pro Tip

Do not use instant polenta to make this recipe. Instant polenta cooks much faster and uses a different quantity of liquid. This recipe is designed for fine yellow cornmeal, stone ground cornmeal, or coarse ground cornmeal. But we promise that using real cornmeal will give you the best corn flavor and make the perfect Italian polenta!

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How to Store Leftover Polenta

If you have leftover polenta, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. You can quickly reheat the cooked polenta in the microwave, heating in thirty-second increments until it is warm again. You may want to stir in a little bit of extra milk to make the polenta creamy again. Reheating can make the polenta too dry! Stirring in milk, a little butter, or just some water will fix dry polenta right away.

Polenta will get pretty firm in the fridge so another way to enjoy leftovers is to slice the cold polenta then pan fry it with some olive oil. The crispy outside edges of the polenta will taste fantastic!

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What to Serve with Polenta

Polenta goes with so many classic Italian dishes. Serve your Italian polenta with perfectly braised meats, shrimp scampi, veal saltimbocca or just some sauteed mushrooms with garlic. Polenta can even be a great breakfast, served underneath a soft-boiled egg and some steamed veggies. Anything that has a nice sauce will go well with warm polenta. Think of polenta as a clean slate and pair it with anything!

For more delicious recipes ideas check out our saltimbocca alla romana recipe

Polenta Recipe Feature Image - 1390x600

Polenta Recipe

If you have been looking for the perfect creamy polenta recipe, look no further! This authentic Italian polenta is made with rich chicken broth, fine cornmeal, and plenty of grated parmesan cheese.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 280 kcal


  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Medium pot
  • Whisk


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup fine ground cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley optional


  • Add the water, broth, and milk to a medium pot and bring to a boil.
  • Stir in the salt then slowly stir in the cornmeal, whisking constantly as you pour the cornmeal into the boiling liquid. Add polenta slowly as the dry cornmeal can clump if added too quickly. Slowly whisk as you add the cornmeal. Use a measuring cup with a spout to help add the cornmeal in a slow, continuous stream.
  • Turn the heat to low and continue to cook the polenta for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula or whisk. It will look thick and fluffy and pull away from the sides of the pan when stirred.
  • Remove the pot from the stove top and add butter and cheese.
  • Serve immediately while the polenta is warm topped with the chopped parsley, if using.


  • Consistency and Cooking Time Adjustments: Depending on your preference for the final texture of polenta, adjust the cooking time. For a creamy, soft polenta, cook it for a shorter duration but make sure to keep stirring to avoid lumps. If you prefer a firmer polenta that can be sliced after cooling, extend the cooking time. This will allow the polenta to thicken more, making it ideal for frying or grilling later.
  • Cheese Variations: While Parmigiano Reggiano is a classic choice, don't hesitate to experiment with different types of cheese to match the flavor profile of your meal. Pecorino Romano will add a sharper taste, while cheddar can introduce a different kind of richness. If you're serving polenta with a milder dish, consider using a milder cheese like mozzarella or even incorporating a bit of blue cheese for a bold twist.
  • Stirring Technique: The key to creamy, lump-free polenta is constant whisking. Start by slowly adding the cornmeal to your boiling broth and milk mixture, continuously whisking to blend it smoothly. This prevents the formation of lumps and ensures an even texture. Use a fine wire whisk and make sure to reach the edges of the pan to integrate all the cornmeal properly.
  • Flavor Enhancements: To elevate the basic polenta recipe, consider adding herbs or spices. Fresh basil or rosemary can impart a fresh, aromatic flavor, making your polenta more versatile. For a bit of heat, sprinkle in some red pepper flakes. Incorporating these elements during the cooking process allows the flavors to meld beautifully with the creamy texture of the polenta.
Keyword Cornmeal, Polenta

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the food images displayed on this website are for illustrative purposes only. They do not represent the actual dishes or presentations you might achieve when following our recipes. While we strive to inspire your culinary journey, the appearance of your dishes may vary.

Frequent Asked Questions

Polenta is made with cheese, cornmeal, and a liquid like milk, water, or broth. Classic polenta does not have any seasonings other than salt and pepper. However, this traditional side dish can be seasoned to suit your tastes and to match your accompanying meal!

Polenta and grits are very similar. The main difference is the type of corn the grains are derived from. Grits are typically made from hominy corn which has a very smooth, fine consistency. Polenta is made from cornmeal that comes from flint corn which is more coarse and has a firmer texture. Grits also tend to be softer than polenta and they are normally not made with cheese.

Polenta is made by boiling water, broth, or milk and then whisking in cornmeal. The polenta is then slowly cooked and whisked constantly to prevent lumps. It is a very easy, quick side dish that goes well with so many different meals.

The classic ratio for polenta is 4 parts liquid to one part cornmeal. This will give you a nice textured polenta and it is very easy to remember!

If you want to make creamy polenta, it is best to use a blend of milk and water. While you can use either liquid, using a little bit of each will give you the most flavor and the best texture. All milk can be a little too rich while all water is a little bit to bland. We also like to use broth or stock to add more flavor to this Italian side dish.

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