Your new favorite comfort food.
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 looks very plain Jane: a bowl of pale yellow corn mush that may or may not taste like sawdust. But appearances can be deceiving. Creamy parmesan polenta tastes incredibly satisfying: a soft and rich, with the simple-yet-perfect flavors of corn, salty pecorino-Romano and parmesan cheeses, and (of course) butter.
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Sometimes polenta makes an appearance as a side dish on casual Italian restaurant menus, next to the garlic sautéed spinach. Generally, though, polenta is almighty pasta’s sad understudy: waiting for its moment to shine, but rarely getting the spotlight. No more. Creamy parmesan polenta will be your new favorite side dish.
How to Make Creamy Parmesan Polenta
Polenta can be used as a base for meats, vegetables, or even all on its own. It only involves a few ingredients, so quality ingredients and the right method is key.
- First, do not use instant or quick polenta. The texture will be grainy, and the cornmeal will not absorb the other flavors as well. Sure, you will lose the instant gratification factor. But frankly, instant polenta is not very gratifying anyway.
- 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. 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.
Enjoy bringing humble polenta into center stage.
Creamy Parmesan Polenta
- 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 parmesan cheese
- 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.