We have an ongoing discussion in my house about grits versus polenta. I am, after all, married to a Southern man. Polenta (ground corn) is my preference and what I often prepare as a side dish for roasted meats (though it’s equally exciting with a poached egg for breakfast). It's one of my favorite go-to side dishes. There is some science behind preparing the perfect creamy polenta and after years of making it, I think we've finally arrived.
I want you to have this perfect polenta recipe in your repertoire.
Bonus: any leftover polenta can be left to sit out and form a solid piece before being cut into your desired shape and fried. Yum.
- 7 1/2 cups water
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- Pinch baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups course ground polenta
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
- In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add in the sea salt and baking soda.
- Using a wooden spoon to swish the water side to side, slowly pour in the polenta, stirring the entire time. Reduce the heat to as low as possible, cover the saucepan with a lid and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
- Take the lid off, use a whisk to stir the polenta (breaking up any large pieces that are stuck together) and put the lid back on. Let the polenta continue cooking for another 20 minutes. The heat under them should be very low – if it won’t go that low, pull the saucepan halfway off the burner (rotating halfway through the cooking time).
- Turn the heat off, remove the lid, and add the butter and Parmesan cheese into the polenta. Stir to combine. Let rest for 5 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, and extra Parmesan for serving, if desired.
Growing up, my mother would often serve us fried polenta with butter and maple syrup. She told us her father, as a boy, came across the country with his family in a covered wagon and fried cornmeal/polenta was a staple on the trail. They called it Prairie Fish. We loved it!