Parmigiano Polenta 101

This is an old peasant favorite.  Cooking doesn’t get more simple and easy than this. 

First off, this is the first of several announcements that there will be a big kickoff to the 180 Kitchen blog in March – a month with several posts and videos dedicated to one beautiful topic – Filet Mignon.  It will be dubbed, “Mignon March.” 

The videos are currently being recorded, and one such dish with Filet Mignon that I whipped up last night was served over the ever-versatile, satisfying, and simple quick polenta with white cornmeal.  I’ve made this so many times in my life that I wouldn’t even dream of taking the time to measure anything.  I understand many people get frustrated with my lack of reliable measurements, but I continue to uphold my belief that technique, intuition, flexibility, and focus on the food is the primary means of becoming a great chef – not stubborn adherence to stiff measurements.  And this site and my cooking eBook is not dedicated to your success with dinner tonight, but in your success in developing the skills and tools needed to make EVERY dinner (and lunch and breakfast) a great success. 

General directions are:

1) Bring a half-water to half-cream pot of water to boil (whole milk or half n’ half can be used with no additional water as well if you prefer, and make a sweeter finished product).

2) Whisk in white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal, or grits until you feel a slight thickness developing.

3) Reduce heat and cook covered for about 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times – the coarser the cornmeal or grits the more liquid it will need and the longer you will need to cook it to keep it from being “grainy” and “gritty.”

4) Finish with a hearty chunk of butter (whisked in immediately to avoid separation) and plenty of real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The finished product should be almost as smooth as mashed potatoes with a similar consistency.  It should not be stiff nor should it be so runny that it oozes across the plate.  The biggest mistake made with polenta is adding too much cornmeal.  When the ratio of cornmeal to liquid is too small, it won’t get soft and creamy no matter how long you cook it. 

You can also spread the polenta out on a sheet tray, let it cool in the refrigerator, and then cut it into slices for frying or grilling on a barbecue grill as well.

At the end of the video you will see I included a brief clip from one of my Filet Mignon videos to show you the consistency and look of the finished product once it has cooked for several minutes and received a 180 shot of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano. 

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Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 11:17 am  Comments (18)  
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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. mmm 🙂 i like to serve this with rabbit stew 😉

    • Lapin! C’est magnifique!

  2. Yes! I make this often, but never thought to use milk as part of the liquid.
    I made it the other night with Chicken Cacciatore — a super delicious pairing!

    • The stuff is good with everything. I can’t even decide what I like it with best. Shellfish, poultry – especially grilled quail, and red meat stews such as braised short ribs are all pretty damn amazing.

  3. We make this a couple times a week at home, got addicted after making the creamy grits from the Cook eBook. It’s so simple, quick and excellent way to pound in some starch/fat. We also add full fat cream cheese with the parm, definitely gives a nice texture and additional flavor. Thanks!

  4. Matt, how do you make this so quickly. I refer to my oracle on all things Italian, Marcella Hazan. She has me stirring the polenta first with a whisk then with a wooden spoon for 40 minutes. She has a “no stir” method (trust me it still has lots of stirring) that also takes 40 minutes. Her ratio of liquid to polenta is roughly 4 to 1. Is that about what yours is? Maybe the corn meal you use is more finely ground?

    • I don’t know why Italians like making food the hard way. They stir risotto for 40 minutes too, when 30 seconds of intense stirring at the very end creates the same consistency.

      Use more finely ground cornmeal, and know that 4 to 1 is not enough liquid!!! Each type of cornmeal grain is different, which is why I don’t measure. Like I said, if you have too much cornmeal to liquid, you can cook it all day and it comes out like a bowl of sand.

      The belief that polenta needs to be cooked for such a long time is a myth for sure.

  5. Thanks,Matt. I’m going to try this right now. I have noticed that Marcella’s recipes do sometimes tend to be more labor intensive than necessary. There is something about her though. She has a power over me I can’t quite explain. She’s the Ray Peat of the cooking world.

    • 40 minute polenta is crazy though. Some people just don’t get polenta. I worked at an Italian restaurant and the chef couldn’t ever figure it out. He made me make it every time. I don’t get it. It’s just liquid and cornmeal people.

  6. I tried it. It took me about 25 minutes, which is better than 40!

  7. Hey Matt, are you concerned about GM/non-organic corn? If not, why?

    • I try to avoid such things when possible for sure, but am not super religiuos or paranoid about GMO’s.

  8. […] Kitchen, as I dust the tenderloin with the seasoning blend from the last post, and serve it with parmesan polenta (a former post) and wilted spinach (the first 180 Kitchen […]

  9. Made this yesterday night with some sausages cooked in Tomato and Rosmary. Was the shizzle. Even whipped out my iPhone while cooking it to watch the video of your recipe….. Never done Polenta before, family loved it!

    • Sounds good! Was the tomato and rosemary in the pan with the sausages or the polenta?

    • That’s my boy! Chris is Numero Uno!

  10. I was re-watching this episode of Doctor Who last night and thought of you, Matt.

    It inspired creamy grits and bacon for breakfast.

    • Grits! Or as they are pronounced where I come from… Gree-its.


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