Soft Polenta

by Mollie Katzen

From  The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation

3 - 4 servings (about 3 1/2 cups)

Warm yourself with a bowl of bright yellow calm. Melt in some cheese or crown it with a single poached egg. Heap on a mound of mushrooms or top with a weave of garlicky greens. Many suggestions are included below.

Soft polenta cooks up in 15 minutes. If you make it firmer, and spread it out to cool on a plate, it will firm up sliceably. You can then fry the pieces until crisp – and that’s another fun way to go.

Polenta will keep for several days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.  Reheat it in a microwave, or by mashing it in a bowl and adding hot water or warmed milk.

4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

1 cup polenta (coarse corn meal) 

Possible toppings

- A drizzle of excellent olive oil

- A drizzle of artisan honey

- Grated or sliced hard cheese (Parmesan or cheddar)

- Crumbled gorgonzola or any favorite blue cheese

- Toasted walnuts

- A freshly poached egg and some salt and pepper

- Sautéed mushrooms

- Cooked leafy greens (olive oil and garlic)

- Ratatouille

- Roasted or dried tomatoes

- Roasted red peppers

- Pesto or salsa verde



    1. Pour 3 cups of the water into a medium-sized saucepan, add the salt, and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, place the polenta in a bowl with the remaining cup of water, and stir until it is completely moistened.

    2. When the water boils, turn down the heat to a simmer and spoon in the wet polenta.  It will blend in instantly.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and often with a wooden spoon, until it turns creamy-thick (about 15 minutes). Adjust texture with more water, if you’d like it softer.

    3. Taste to possibly adjust the salt, then serve hot with any combination of toppings.