The Basics: Polenta

I love ordering dishes that are served with polenta when I'm dining at Italian restaurants. However, the one time I tried to make polenta at home several years ago, it ended up a mushy flavorless disaster. Since then, I've avoided cooking polenta.

But, I hate limiting myself in the kitchen, so recently I decided to get over my fear. I looked to Alton Brown for guidance, and it turns out he has an easy, almost foolproof recipe that doesn't require standing over the stove for an hour. The polenta is baked in the oven and seasoned with sautéed red onions and parmesan cheese.

It's a great side dish to hearty Winter meats, like short ribs, or a wonderful appetizer canvas once cooled and grilled. To check out the recipe that has restored my polenta confidence,





  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for grilling or sauteing if desired
  2. 3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  3. 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  4. 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  5. 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
  6. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  9. 2 ounces Parmesan, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.
  3. Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking.
  4. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.
  5. Serve as is, or pour the polenta into 9 by 13-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  6. Once set, turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds, or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and saute in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, or grill.

Serves 4-6.

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