Polenta: Why I Love It and a Quick & Cheesy Polenta Recipe

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Polenta is a delicious, easy-to-prepare corn dish, similar to grits. I love it for its quick prep time and creamy goodness. Try this quick and cheesy polenta recipe for a great dinner.

Polenta: Why I Love It and a Quick & Cheesy Polenta Recipe | Good Cheap Eats

I first heard about polenta in the 90s when I worked at a fancy-schmancy restaurant in Santa Barbara. There they served it sliced and grilled. I tried it, and didn’t care for it.

But, I really wanted to like it.

After giving it the good old college try a few years ago, I’m a fan. In a big way. Here’s why:

Polenta: Why I Love It

Polenta is super versatile.

According to the New Food Lover’s Companion,

A staple of northern Italy, polenta is a mush made from cornmeal. It can be eaten hot with a little butter or cooled until firm, cut into squares and fried. Polenta is sometimes mixed with cheese such as Parmesan or Gorgonzola. It can be served as a first course or side dish and makes hearty breakfast fare.

I agree on all points. I’ve served it as a gluten-free alternative to pasta, piling it high with meatballs, meat sauce, or other Italian-style meats. I’ve enjoyed it as a side dish to sausage and greens. I’ve made polenta “pizzas”, by slicing the chilled leftover polenta — it firms up when cool — and topping it with sauce and cheese. I’ve reheated leftovers and topped it with a fried egg. Super good!

Polenta is quick and easy to make.

Polenta cooks up in less than half an hour, making it a quick fix base to many a meal. Just another delicious, quick dinner idea!

I vary the seasonings and the liquids I use to prepare it, based on what I have on hand. The recipe below is one of my favorites!

Polenta is gluten-free.

Polenta is made of corn which is naturally gluten-free. However, keep in mind that corn is a grain that often becomes cross-contaminated with wheat and other gluten-containing grains. Be sure to buy gluten-free polenta to ensure yours is without gluten.

Be sure to check out all the posts in the series: Quick Dinner Ideas.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Chris says

    I love polenta, but am never sure what to buy. Can you use regular corn meal found in American grocery stores? Or should it be called polenta? Where do you buy yours? Thank you!

    • I usually buy mine through Amazon (linked above). I typically buy the cornmeal marked polenta, but I’ve heard that either can work, depending on the grind.

  2. My grandparents were extremely poor and we actually grew up eating “mush” for breakfast at their house. My MawMaw would just cook the cornmeal in water, then she’d add butter and salt and we’d eat it with fried eggs (or without). I prefer grits most of the time (southern girl) but sometimes I still make mush just because it’s a sentimental food to me. I didn’t know it was the same (or very similar to) as polenta until just a few years ago!

    • What would you say is the difference between grits and mush?

      • Texture is the biggest thing! Grits are more… gritty?! The corn is ground more coarse for grits than corn meal (which is ground to a finer texture). So… corn meal is creamier and smooth when made into mush. The other thing is that a lot of cornmeal in grocery stores is actually “corn meal mix” (which is great for cornbread), but that means it has flour added to it. If you make mush (or polenta) with it, the flour slightly changes the texture and flavor, but it’s not a huge difference. 🙂

  3. amy says

    I’m from Alabama, so we eat grits here. The only way I like them is if they are cooked in chicken stock like your polenta. I always finish mine with Colby jack or cheddar cheese and they are so good. We eat them for breakfast, but also for shrimp and grits for dinner.

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