This Easy Parmesan Polenta is a nice alternative to potatoes or rice as a side dish. My dubious of new foods husband took a taste and was an instant fan. Plus it takes less than a half-hour to prepare!

This Creamy Polenta is toasty warm comfort food that is both easy and delicious.

Overhead view of Parnesan Polenta.

Why You Must Make

  • This cheesy Parmesan Polenta recipe from Giada DeLaurentis drew an “Outstanding” rating from the hubby. Hard to believe he thought polenta was a chicken dish, but that was good for a giggle. I’ll leave the cooking terms as the area of my expertise, and he can worry about coronary arteries and such instead.
  • I first had this glorious polenta at our book club’s summer dinner. It takes only about a half-hour to make from start to finish.
  • I whipped it up as Bill lit the charcoal for our grilled pork tenderloins, then placed slices of the pork over the polenta in lieu of mashed potatoes or rice. It’s the perfect way to shake up your side dish repertoire.
Easy Parmesan Polenta in a white bowl with a bamboo handle spoon garnished with parsley.

How To Make

  1. Bring the water to a boil, then add salt. Adding the salt before will change the boiling temperature.
  2. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the cheese, milk, butter, and parsley.
  5. Stir until the butter and cheese have melted. 
  6. Taste and add more salt if needed (and pepper, if desired).
  7. Dig in!

As a precaution, never knowing if a new dish will be a hit with the picky spouse, I only made a half recipe. This can easily be doubled. I’m sure you’ll be able to make it all disappear.

With a nip in the air, we can turn on our ovens and offer warm comfort foods. This Easy Parmesan Polenta definitely qualifies.

Expert Tips

  • PRO-Tip: Buy Cornmeal labeled as polenta. It will be made of flint corn with firmer grains that hold their shape.
  • Use enough water to cook your polenta. Use the amount listed on the label or in the recipe.
  • Make sure your water is salted. Adding salt after it cooks doesn’t infuse the salt into the dish like salted cooking water does.
  • Whisk the polenta into the boiling water until there are no lumps.
  • Make sure to allow to cook and thicken on low heat so bottom does not scorch.
  • When the polenta is too thick to whisk, use a wooden spoon.
  • PRO-Tip: Your polenta is done when it’s creamy and the grains are soft, not gritty. Make sure to taste it to ensure that it’s fully cooked.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Polenta?

Polenta is an Italian staple made from cornmeal. It can be served as a “mush” topped with butter or cooked until firm and cut into squares. It can be an appetizer, a side dish, or even served for breakfast.

Is Polenta Gluten-Free?

Yes, polenta has just one ingredient, cornmeal. This makes it gluten-free. To be vigilant, read the label to make sure it’s processed in a gluten-free environment.
Plus, this polenta recipe is made with all gluten-free ingredients.

What Does Polenta Taste Like?

Polenta has a sweet corn flavor and texture like porridge. If you like the taste of cornbread, you’ll enjoy the flavor of polenta.

How Do You Know When Polenta is Done?

When the polenta is fully cooked, it will be creamy and the individual grains will be tender, not gritty. Tasting a spoonful ensures it’s cooked to perfection.

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small bowl of polenta garnished with parsley next to a bamboo handle spoon

Parmesan Polenta

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield 4

Easy Parmesan Polenta for a quick delicious side dish!


  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring the water to a boil, then add salt.
  2. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, till the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the cheese, milk, butter, and parsley.
  4. Stir until the butter and cheese have melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


Recipe from Giada DeLaurentis

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 1569mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 11g


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