perfect polenta!

Perfect polenta! Some of my Italian friends (not all) can be extremely disparaging about the ability of Australians to cook Italian. For years one of my best Italian friends a picky little Genovese, nicknamed “Stefano pesto” mocked most of my attempts at Italian cuisine especially my polenta. He would nudge the rigid lump around his plate, shaking his head and laughing, refusing to let it pass his lips.

It was a tremendous pleasure when after years of being mocked I put this polenta in front of “Stefan pesto” and to my astonishment and delight his portion disappeared in a moment and he reached fo a second portion. It was an especial delight when basking in his compliments I could point out it was a microwave method…..LOL!!!

This recipe works for yellow or white polenta. AO

Serves 8
double batch microwave times in brackets

Polenta that is not baked in the oven is best made just before your guests are due to arrive

melted butter or EV olive oil for greasing the dish and top of the polenta
1000g full cream milk
500g water
250g polenta, white or yellow
15g salt
125g unsalted butter, cut into cubes or 125g EV olive oil or a combination of both
freshly ground black pepper
100g finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino

For baked polenta, carefully brush a 2.5L ovenproof dish; the texture is better when it is deeper rather than wide if you a looking for a more mashed potato consitency. We are lucky that e have a microwave safe Kenwood bowl, meaning we can go from microwave to machine in a single action, which is very handy.

If you have to swap from a microwave bowl you’ll probably need to add another 30 seconds to the cooking time to allow for the delay. 

All stages of the cooking process must be done without delay or the recipe does not work properly.

Put the milk and water into a large microwave bowl and heat on high for 15 (25) minutes (it must be boiling). Using a hand whisk stir in the polenta and stir until it slightly thickens, stir through the salt and return to the microwave for 7 (12) minutes on medium high — see tips below.

If you are not using your mixer bowl immediately return it to your mixer bowl and starting at slow speed because the bottom will be firmer than the top whisk the polenta until it is evenly thick. If you are using oil, whisk it in slowly and then whisk at high speed until very fluffy. If you are using butter, push the cubes under the polenta, let it stand for a couple of minutes and then whisk until very fluffy then whisk in the cheese.

for oven baked polenta
Scrape into the prepared dish and allow to stand on a rack until a skin firms on the top, then brush generously with melted butter or EV olive oil.

Pre heat oven to 220°C
Bake for 35–40 minutes until the top is golden and the polenta hot when a knife is inserted in the middle.

  • For the style of white polenta that is more like mash potato in texture (not the thinner pomme puree) after adding the butter/oil and whisking return it to the microwave for a further 3/4 minutes, whisk again until thick and fluffy and serve. The disadvantage is that it must be done right at the last minute to achieve the best results, great for the family but a bit of a nuisance when entertaining. The recipe will work with normal polenta and we like to use 125g fine and 125g coarse polenta and sometimes, depending on the richness of the accompaniments we reverse the quantities of milk and water.
  • White polenta can be purchased from most Italian groceries, especially those with an interest in Northern Italian cuisine.
  • The polenta is gorgeous with any wet/casserole style of winter dish like osso bucco, we’ve been doing braised goat with our own green olives. We buy our goat from Rainbow Halal on South Road, but have noticed that Feast at the Market and Wild Oz, also at the Adelaide Central Markets have beautiful young goat.
left overs
  • Cut into portions, brush with oil or butter, bake in the oven until golden and try a simple mushroom ragu with a variety of inexpensive mushrooms enhanced with a few of the exotic European mushrooms available now. Make the ragu fairly wet because the polenta will be firmer when baked a second time.
  • Butter or oil a shallow ovenproof dish. Slice the left over polenta about 5mm thick and cover the bottom of the dish, then alternate with roasted (cooked) vegetables finishing with a layer of polenta. Brush the top with butter and generously sprinkle with grated parmesan pecorino cheese. Bake in a hot oven.