5 Ingredients or Fewer

Carlo Middione's Polenta Facile

March  5, 2013
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This is a no-nonsense polenta technique familiar to Italian restaurant kitchens everywhere -- perfect for a dinner party, or anytime you want to get cooking well before dinner time and go about your business. Best of all: the longer it sits, the better it gets. Any bitterness fades; every gritty grain swells and turns to cream. You can make it with stock, or add milk or cream or cheese, but even straight water polenta will taste better than it has a right to. Adapted slightly from The Foods of Southern Italy (William Morrow, 1987). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups polenta (not instant)
  1. Using only the top half of a double boiler, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, and add salt. Meanwhile, put as much water in the bottom half of the double boiler as will be needed to actually cover the bottom of the top part of the double boiler when it is finally put in, and bring to a heavy simmer. (Note: If you don't have a double boiler, you can use a large pot with a slightly smaller bowl or pot set inside it.)
  2. Put the polenta in a measuring cup from which you can pour it. With a slender but sturdy wooden spoon or a medium-strength whisk, create a vortex in the water in the top half of the double boiler by swirling it in one direction only. This is critical because, if you simply slosh the water around, you create lumps in the polenta that are almost impossible to remove. (If you do get lumps, don't worry -- just mash them against the side of the pot now.)
  3. While the water is swirling in a vortex, drizzle in the polenta a pioggia (like it is raining). You can do this very rapidly, but do not stop stirring. When all the polenta is in, continue to stir but not so energetically. Keep stirring the whole time, being sure to scrape into the corners of the pot where the sides meet the bottom. Lower the heat so that the polenta intermittently bubbles on the surface and "spits" at you.
  4. Continue to stir the polenta for about 5 minutes. When the polenta begins to thicken, place the lid on the pan, and fit it into the bottom half of the double boiler (with the simmering water below reaching up as high as possible underneath the top piece). If you don't have a well-fitting lid, seal with foil. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. Taste for doneness. The polenta should be very yellow, smooth, shiny, and sweet tasting. If it is slightly bitter, cook it longer.
  5. Polenta facile can be held in a slowly simmering double boiler in perfect condition for up to 4 hours. This makes it ideal for large parties or when you simply do not want too many last-minute dishes to worry about.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Deb Browne
    Deb Browne
  • daisybrain
  • mcs3000
  • Herself
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

50 Reviews

Vivian April 26, 2020
Followed directions, longer than expected but stuck with it, and it was amazing.
Ed C. June 27, 2016
Anson Mills had a recipe for using a slow cooker for their polenta rustica. three cups cold water and one cup polenta; cook on high setting for 90 minutes, with one or two stirs; then add a tbs butter, a little sea salt and cheese.
Deb B. January 28, 2015
I use a rice cooker for perfect polenta every time.
daisybrain December 26, 2014
I saw a comment down the line where someone asked about a slow cooker. There were no responses and I am wondering the same thing. I guess I'll just try it. My thought is to start the polenta then pour it into a pre-warmed slow cooker. If anyone has any insight I'd love a tip.
ashley's B. December 26, 2014
Some food for thought from one brain to another (sorry. couldn't help it): I think your idea of 'manually' getting things hot to start with is right.
I've used my rice cooker on the 'porridge' cycle, dumping everything in cold. The rice cooker brings things up to a boil before lowering it down to a simmer. If you manually do the 'boil' part (even if it's not quite up to boiling), then I bet the slow cooker can do the rest. Try boiling your liquid, adding it to a pre-warmed slow cooker, then stirring in the polenta right into the slow cooker and letting the slow cooker take it from there.
I'd love to know what you try and how it turns out.
Kristen M. December 26, 2014
From various comments, I've also learned that you can mix the polenta directly into the water from cold, then bring it up to a boil, stirring occasionally (and therefore avoiding the need to do the vortex part) -- might be helpful when translating to the slow cooker!
beejay45 February 18, 2014
I've never had a problem with lumps either. I think it's one of those things that logic will take care of, I mean you know you have to stir it in, you can't just dump it...if you don't know even that much about cooking, you don't belong in the kitchen. ;) I, too, use a whisk and just whisk it in slowly -- usually to hot milk/broth/water, then give an occasional stir. My friend swears by the oven method, though, and I love her polenta, too. (This is showing "polenta" as a spelling error with the suggested fix being "tadpole"! Hilarious!)
BTW, they sell the Wonderbag on Amazon. I haven't looked into it yet, but I'm wondering if you have to add more liquid than usual since, off heat, you can't be adding more without lowering the temp. Anyone tried that with polenta yet?
TessaVA December 25, 2013
Polenta Facile Works like a charm! No fuss, no muss, NO STIRRING! Yea!!
Deborah B. October 20, 2013
I found Wonderbag here online. (I'm not affiliated with them in any way, nor do I own one... but would like to reduce my use of fuel) http://nb-wonderbag.com/
ashley's B. May 12, 2013
This made me hungry for polenta. Inspired, I tried making it in my Sanyo rice cooker on the 'porridge' setting. Used this same ratio of liquid to polenta. Used half whole milk, half water; added about 2 Tbs butter. Added everything cold, stirred to mix, and started it. I did give it a stir after about 45ish minutes to make sure it was all mixed & smooth.
Marvelous!! Creamy and soft, and no muss and no fuss. Plus it automatically held on the 'Keep warm' setting. If you have a rice cooker with a porridge setting, give it a shot.
MarthaP June 5, 2013
Thank you!! I tried this in my rice maker and it was perfect!
souptastic October 30, 2013
Yes, just tried this and I can second that it worked like a charm!
Pat E. January 18, 2014
Oh, boy, oh,boy,oh, boy! I gotta try this!
mboerner April 17, 2013
Being lazy, I use the microwave: 5 c. water for each cup of good cornmeal; put in water; pour in cornmeal; whisk with wire wisk; cook cover at high power in microwave for 30 minutes; stir again with wisk; cook 30 minutes at low power in microwave. Voila, perfect polenta. But use only Arizona Mills or other excellent cornmeal.
shirleyanne S. April 5, 2013
anyone got any more info on the Wonder Bag?
mbr101 March 9, 2013
soooo, I continue to learn not to assume... ;) lol
mcs3000 March 7, 2013
Must try this. Love polenta.
Herself March 7, 2013
I follow Martha Rose Shulman's directions for cooking polenta in the oven. Works like a charm.
TheWimpyVegetarian March 7, 2013
I mean caused HIM to lose his sense of taste :-)!!
TheWimpyVegetarian March 7, 2013
I love the note below on the Wonder Bag and want one now. And this is a great, great way to do polenta. I was lucky enough to be in classes in school that Carlo taught on Italian food before his car accident (which caused me to lose his sense of taste). He is a gentle soul as well as brilliant.
Lesliebling March 7, 2013
The Wonder Bag info is fascinating! I wonder if we all shouldn't consider ways to cook with less energy...
lemons March 7, 2013
Whisks always leave me with corners of the pan untouched. I use a wooden spatula for most of my wooden spoon-type work, much better at reaching the corners.
duckfat March 7, 2013
After you whisk the polenta give the sides of your pot a good stir with your spoon et voila, no lumps.
walkie74 March 7, 2013
Anybody got any idea if the slow cooker idea works? It'd make a hell of a breakfast in the morning, if it did...
SBKSB March 6, 2013
I've also read a recipe--Lidia Bastianich, maybe?-- for starting the polenta in cold water, which prevents lumping, and then bringing it to a boil. Seems to work--why isn't it recommended here, I wonder?
Twixen March 6, 2013
Agree with Duckfat....I've always used a whisk at first when adding polenta to water and I don't remember ever seeing lumpy polenta, didn't realize people even had this problem with polenta :-).