Polenta (Basic Recipe)

  • Active Time 45m
  • Total Time 45m

Serves 6

There is no really precise rule for cooking polenta. The same rules apply as for pasta dough: the capacity of the flour to absorb liquid depends on its quality, the climate, the humidity in the air and the composition of the water used. One learns through observation and experience, but here are some basic suggestions to start with.


  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 5 cups yellow cornmeal (polenta)
  • Butter, for serving
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving


Place the water in a copper cauldron (this is the prescribed vessel for hanging in the fireplace over a wood fire, but if you are in a city house, a steel or heavy metal saucepan will do) over high heat and bring to a boil. Wait until the water begins to boil merrily. Add the kosher salt and start sprinkling in the cornmeal, letting it fall through the fingers of one hand while continually stirring with a wooden spoon in the other. Always stir in the same direction, whether clockwise or counterclockwise, never reversing it. Gradually the mixture will become thicker and thicker. Polenta needs long cooking - at least 40 minutes - and it must never be interrupted. Only constant stirring will make it perfect. It's a dish that is exhausting to make, and was traditionally done by a man.

When it comes out of the pot the polenta is soft and can be served in bowls, coated in butter and Parmesan cheese and eaten with a spoon. After a while it tends to become more solid and can then be cut into slices, while still warm.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Weldon Russell. All rights reserved.

RecID 984

nutrition information per serving

407 calories; 10g total fat; 18mg cholesterol; 1836mg sodium; 73g carbohydrates; 7g fiber; 9g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

Sign Up for Cooking.com Newsletters Here

Delicious recipes, easy meal ideas and holiday inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Follow Cooking.com