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Creamy Parmesan Polenta

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Polenta is your new favorite comfort food.

This creamy parmesan polenta recipe makes an outstanding comfort food with little effort. Learn how to make basic polenta that’s fluffier, creamier, and better than anything you’ve had. 

Italian Creamy Polenta Recipe

Make This Creamy Polenta Recipe With Parmesan

I am going to go out on a limb and call polenta one of the most under-appreciated foods out there. (See also: celery). Polenta sometimes makes a humble appearance as a side dish on casual Italian restaurant menus, next to the garlic sautéed spinach. A good polenta cake recipe is worth having as well.

Generally, though, polenta is pasta’s sad understudy, waiting for its moment to shine, but rarely getting the spotlight. No more! This creamy parmesan polenta recipe, folded with butter and cheese, will be your new favorite side dish.

Polenta looks very plain Jane: a bowl of pale yellow corn mush. But appearances can be deceiving. This creamy stovetop polenta recipe make an incredibly satisfying bowl: soft and rich, with the simple-yet-perfect flavors of corn, salty pecorino-Romano and parmesan cheeses, and (of course) butter.

bowl of creamy polenta with butter

What Does Polenta Go With?

A good Italian polenta recipe can be made with very little effort, and makes an outstanding base for meats, vegetables, or even all on its own.

I find that polenta goes very well when served with a roasted or braised meat dish such as:

How to Make This Polenta: Recipe Tips

Making polenta involves only a few ingredients, so quality ingredients and the right method is key.

  • First, do not use instant or quick polenta. The texture of that polenta in a tube will be grainy, and the cornmeal will not absorb the other flavors as well. Non-instant polenta takes longer, but is worth it.
  • Whisk the polenta into the boiling water correctly. The only work you have to do to make this, other than boiling water, is to whisk the polenta. This is most important at the early stage, when you whisk the raw cornmeal into the boiling, salted water.

cornmeal polenta and cheese in measuring cup

Whisk constantly to prevent lumps, then continue to whisk constantly for several minutes, until the polenta has emulsified with the water and the bubbles slow to those like a thick, swampy hot tub. Then, lower the heat, partially cover, and whisk occasionally until the polenta has fully cooked. This will take about 45 minutes.

creamy polenta recipe with butter and parmesan

Finish Your Italian Polenta With Parmesan and Butter

After you have cooked the polenta into creamy doneness, remove the polenta from the heat. Add the butter and cheeses. Stir, and serve hot, topped with another dollop of butter and a sprinkle of cheese.

Enjoy bringing humble polenta into center stage.

bowls of tomato kale chickpea stew with grated parmesan and basil

Love this creamy parmesan polenta recipe? You’ll also love:

Creamy Polenta Recipe: How to Make Polenta, Italian Style

Creamy Parmesan Polenta

An easy, essential creamy polenta recipe, folded with butter and cheese, for a comforting, satisfying bowl.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Course: dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keywords:: cornmeal, creamy parmesan polenta recipe, creamy polenta, how to make polenta, italian, parmigiano, pecorino-Romano, polenta
Servings: 4 people


  • 1 cup polenta (not quick-cooking)
  • 5 cups water (possibly a little more)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino-Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (don't skimp; use the real deal parm)
  • 12 turns fresh black pepper (about 1 teaspoon)


  • Bring a pot of 5 cups of water and the 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil.
  • Slowly and steadily whisk in the polenta. Keep whisking until the cornmeal emulsifies with the water and the bubbles thicken and slow, about two to three minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Partially cover and cook, whisking frequently, until the polenta is fully cooked and soft and does not taste grainy, about 40 - 45 minutes. It should be fluffy and smooth. Add a little more water if the polenta seems too thick.
  • Remove from the heat. Add the cheeses, butter, and pepper and whisk to combine. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot, garnished with more cheese and fresh black pepper.


  • Bad Kitty

    Do you think this could be done in a rice cooker?

    • Unpeeled

      Hmm…that is a very interesting question. I honestly don’t think I would try it. Stirring (a LOT!) is a big part of the process of making the polenta nice and smooth, so I think a pot is best.

  • F Walsh

    5 stars
    YUM. Loved this and ate on its own.

  • I know it’s not ideal, but can this be made in advance and reheated? If yes, please tell me how? Thank you.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi and yes! Polenta, when chilled, will congeal and form a bit of a solid mass. But you can reheat it. Put the cold polenta in a pot and break it up a lot with a spoon. Add a little sprinkle of water or milk (just a bit, though, or the polenta will be runny!) and reheat over medium heat, stirring often. It should get nice and creamy again.

  • 5 stars
    simple, satisfying

  • 5 stars
    Where has this been all my life?! haha. I love it, love it. I served it with boeuf bourguignon over the weekend and it was perfect. I normally serve boeuf b. with buttered noodles. This was a nice change and more flavorful.

  • Emmy F.

    5 stars
    This tasted fantastic. Starch with butter and cheese–what’s not to love!? haha!

  • Helena P.

    5 stars
    Wonderful. I love polenta and think it’s underrated, too!! This turned out great..

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