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The Three Secrets to No-Stir Polenta

2016-07-10 color spoon page #0

Polenta has a terrible reputation for requiring endless stirring. But no-stir polenta is not some mythical unicorn. It’s within reach*. And the benefit of no-stir polenta is that you can have a lush and delicious side dish (and, even, a proper entrée, if you top it with roasted beets and cheese, or something equally rich,) with very little work. You just need to know a few small secrets.

  • You have to start with good cornmeal.
  • It will take a long time.
  • You will need to do some stirring.

About that cornmeal: Go with what tastes good to you. I’ve tried various reputable brands but they did not please the missus. I found one at my local coop that’s marked “New York State Cornmeal.” I know nothing more about it, other than it has a sweet and deep flavor that pleases. Enough said. Do some experimenting.

About the amount of time you will need: Bank on a good 50 minutes to more than an hour.

And you will need to stir the pot. Not continually, but every ten minutes or so. Here are the instructions:

No-Stir Polenta

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (note that I use a little less, but this often leads to the question, “did I salt the polenta?”; do what you think is best)
  • 1 cup cornmeal of choice
  • 1 Tablespoon (or more) of butter
  • ½ cup (or more) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring the water to a boil.

Add the salt.

Whisk in the cornmeal very carefully, practically a grain at a time.

Stir for a good minute.

Cover the pot and turn down to a simmer.

Every ten minutes, stir the pot for a good minute, scraping up off the bottom that which sticks.

Repeat until the polenta is cooked. About 50 minutes to an hour. You can tell by taste and consistency. When it tends to stick to itself, and pull easily from the side of the pot, it is done.

Stir in the butter and cheese.


*I did not invent this method. Far from it. Marcella Hazan and Mark Bittman each have recipes for it, the former somewhat reluctantly and the latter somewhat gleefully. I’m sure if you looked further, you can find others. The beauty of cooking, of course, is that no one invented fire. It’s just there, and I’m here to help you figure out what to do with it. Same for cornmeal.

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