Recipes > Soft Polenta

Soft Polenta


An easy Italian side dish made from coarse cornmeal, garlic, onions, and fresh herbs.
  • Serves: 8
  • Active Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 35 mins
  • Views: 75,416
  • Success Rating: 90% (?)
    0% - I fed it to the dog


Step 1: Making the Polenta

Making the Polenta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups stock
  • 4 cups milk (can substitute with stock or water)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
  • 3 tbsp fresh sage (or thyme)
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper (for garnish)


Finely chop the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. The pot needs to be big enough to hold about 3 liters or 12 cups volume.

Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sweat for about five minutes or until translucent. Adjust the heat to avoid adding any color to the onions.

Next, add the minced garlic and sweat for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the stock, milk and salt. Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

When liquid is simmering, slowly add the polenta into the liquid in a slow steady stream while stirring constantly with a whisk. Once fully incorporated, switch to a wooden spoon stirring every 1 or 2 minutes for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and the grains of polenta begin to soften.

While the polenta is cooking, chop the herbs and grate the parmesan (if using). Once the potenta has fully cooked (taste it), turn the heat off and fold in the herbs and parmesan (unless you are going to hold the polenta before serving). Then add the butter to finish (if using). Transfer to a serving bowl and finish with freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Chef's Notes

Not only is this a staple dish in Italy, it is also popular in many other parts of the World. It is a great alternative to potatoes and rice. Soft polenta pairs well with almost any braised meat, hearty stews or even roast chicken.

Making Polenta Ahead:

Polenta will hold for a few hours if tightly covered and held over a bain marie and. If you are making the polenta ahead of time, add the herbs, parmesan (if using), pepper and garnish just before serving. You may need to stir every 15 minutes or so to avoid clumping, and if the polenta gets too thick, loosen it with a ladle full of hot stock or even a little bit of hot water.


  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    This recipe is delicious even if made ahead. Polenta holds really well and there are even tips in the recipe for making it ahead of time.
  • Jason V
    Jason V
    Has anybody tried substituting vegetable stock instead of chicken stock for this recipe?
  • Dee F
    Dee F
    I made this a long time ago and it was really good. I didn't actually have any chicken stock so I had to use veggie. My family thought it was delicious.
  • Eunice M
    Eunice M
    is there a reason for adding the cornmeal to boiled liquid vs. adding it to cold and bringing everything up to a boil, together? does it create a different texture? James Peterson's polenta recipe also starts out with the cornmeal in a cold liquid (and he also recommends another method where you bring everything to a simmer in an oven-proof pan on the stove top, first, and then sticking it in a 350ºF oven and baking for 35 minutes or so). that's how i've been doing it and it seems to work out for me, so far. and, to my mind, reduces the chance of clumpy polenta...but i could be wrong and just be kidding myself? thank you
  • Tony M Rouxbe Staff
    Tony M
    You can start with cold liquid. The advantage of bringing the liquid first to a boil is it allows any flavoring ingredients added to the liquid to infuse BEFORE adding the polenta. Also, not all cornmeals are the same, so adding the polenta AFTER it has come to the boil allows you to control the consistency. The oven method works well, but still requires occasional stirring to eliminate forming of a topical crust, which means opening an oven door once in a while. Again, an example of more than one way to do things.
  • Eunice M
    Eunice M
    thanks for the breakdown. never would have thought consistency being affected by the method by which you use to cook the polenta.
  • Artoosh V
    Artoosh V
    Has anyone made ploenta rectangles, which are firm enough to grill over an open grill? I have had it in Australia and the presentation looks great.
  • Kimberley S Rouxbe Staff
    Kimberley S
    There is a whole lesson on How to Make Polenta in the Cooking School. Here we discuss the ratios for making soft/firm polenta. Cheers!
  • Sunnie S
    Sunnie S
    I made this polenta today to use in the Rouxbe recipe Steamed Eggs w/Polenta, Sausage & Roasted Red Peppers. I used chicken stock, whole milk and sage (I also included the butter at the end). The polenta was good although, I believe I under cooked it a bit as it still had some bite (the cornmeal grains). I cooked for the full 25 minutes and it did pull away from the sides of the pot when I stirred, but it was not a creamy as I think it should have been (I believe it should not have had the bite I mentioned above). Assuming I just need to cook a bit longer next time - I'll shoot for another 5 minutes or so. Wondering if my polenta needs additional liquid as well?
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Sunnie: To answer your question, you may want to check your flame and make certain that it is low. Frequent stirring seems to also help. It sounds as though you followed the recipe well, just keep an eye on flame. I hope this helps. Thanks for writing!
  • Craig K
    Craig K
    So, the recipe says "slowly add the polenta into the liquid." But, a quick review of the ingredients shows there is no ingredient "polenta" listed. I assume they / you_all mean slowly add the "corn meal aka polenta" into the liquid. Ironically, the recipe says "Step 1: Making the Polenta" but then immediately says just add "the polenta" -- umm, I thought that's what we're making?

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