Five-Minute Polenta

Cheater's polenta is so handy for weeknight cooking, perfect under sausages, scallops, or roasted vegetables.


Well, don’t tell a great Italian cook you are making this, because it truly is a shortcut polenta. But for weeknights, I find it is mighty handy and just the thing during the cold weather months to serve under sausages, sautéed scallops, or roasted vegetables. With this easy method, you combine the cornmeal with the liquids before turning the heat on, so there’s no whisking of cornmeal into hot liquids or fear of lumps.

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • ½ cup light or heavy cream
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup fine cornmeal
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano or other cheese


1. In a large saucepan, whisk the cream, water, cornmeal, and 1½ teaspoons salt together. (Whisk thoroughly before putting the pan on the heat.) Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken and begins to bubble, about 4 minutes. Immediately reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring all the time, until the polenta has thickened to a porridge-like consistency.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Taste (spoon out a little bit and let it cool first – it will be very hot) and add more salt if desired. Spoon into serving bowls right away.

Tip: If the polenta has to hold for a few minutes, try to stir it every so often. It will thicken as it cools, but you can add a little more water or cream, return it to low heat, and stir until creamy just before serving.