Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (2024)

Boiled, baked, grilled, fried or even room-temperature, polenta is one of those dishes that is incredibly flexible in it’s methods and recipe! You can top it with almost anything and serve it any season. When it’s hot and steamy outside, serve it room temperature with a caprese salad topping. In the winter, you can serve it piping hot to warm you from the inside out.

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (1)

Polenta in the pressure cooker is very controversial in Italy – where risotto is commonly made this way. Polenta is the ultimate slow-food and both Italian foodies and grandmas have strong opinions about each method. The battle field is divided between true polenta purists, who insist on only making polenta in a copper cauldron over an open fire stirring constantly with an oar-type spoon; the semi-purists who use non-stick pasta pots with a wooden spoon on their stove-top ; the innovators who toss a top on the pan, lower the flame and do not stir at all; and the pressure cookers who say that “ it all comes out the same in the end so why not make it faster?”

Polenta in the pressure cooker is so much like the original that I recommend the purists stop shining their cauldrons and sanding their oars to taste the results from the pressure cooker before passing further judgment.

5 Ways to Serve Pressure Cooker Polenta

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (2)Creamy Polenta
Follow the basic polenta recipe, or suggested modifications below, when you open the top, stir in a little milk and butter. Pour it out of the pan into individual serving dishes, serve immediately and top with the vegetable or meat of your choice.

Solid Polenta for hot days!
Follow the basic polenta recipe, and when you open the top, pour the contents into a large wide heat-safe baking dish (I use a 9×13″ Pyrex casserole with the basic recipe, below) flattening with a spatula as you go because it begins to solidify quickly. Let it cool for about an hour, and then either cut into little rectangles or use cookie shapes to cut out fun shapes for your kids or guests. Then, top with your favorite topping and serve!

Oven-Baked Polenta
Follow the instructions for creamy or solid polenta, above, and either place the individual heat-proof dishes in the oven or the cut shapes on a cookie sheet brushed with a little olive oil or melted butter. Bake at 200c or 350F until crispy, not brown, around the edges.

Grilled Polenta
Follow the instructions for the solid polenta (above) and then place brush the shapes, or rectangles with a little olive oil (or whatever marinade you are using for your BBQ) and place on the grill until the exterior is lightly browned.

Fried Polenta – for kids!
Follow the instructions for the solid polenta (above) and cut the polenta into 1/2″ or 2cm thick sticks and either pan or deep-fry in vegetable oil until lightly golden and crispy on the outside. Serve with ketchup, or yogurt with herbs dipping sauces.

Perfecting Pressure Cooker Polenta

In my quest for the perfect pressure cooker polenta recipe I scorched the bottom of my pressure cooker quite severely following the instructions from several Italian websites; I got a solid, chunky mess when following American recipes; and, agelatinus glob with an undercooked pasty center from the highly recommended pot-in-pan method on a pressure cooking mailing list.

Then… I found an abandoned Italian Blog, Ricette Maledette (Damn Recipes), where the writer shared their grandmother Serena’s technique for making perfect pressure cooker polenta. The key is to close the lid once the polenta starts bubbling. Following this method, and perfecting it with my own timing and ratio, I was able to finally succeed where many before me had not. Even Lorna Sass, the Pressure Cooker Queen of the 90’s and 2000’s said it couldn’t be done. Now, it can. However, it will leave a little scorching on the bottom of your pressure cooker pan – just like a cauldron on an open fire would.

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (3)

Don’t worry… cleaning instructions are included in the recipe and it’s very easy to do!

Pressure CookerAccessoriesPr. Cook TimePr. LevelOpen
6 L or largernone8 min.High(2)Slow Normal

4.8 from 8 reviews

Basic Pressure Cooker Polenta Recipe

Author:hip pressure cooking

Recipe type:pressure cooker


Prep time:

Cook time:

Total time:

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (4)

Adapted from Ricette Maledette (Damn Recipes) - I follow her method but perfected the ratios and cooking times for modern pressure cookers. The ratio of this recipe is 4:1 (water : polenta) calculating about ¼ cup of polenta per person. Don't use "instant" polenta.


  • 2 cups coarse polenta corn flour (also known as "bramata")
  • 8 cups liquid (water, broth, or a mix of water and milk)
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  1. Fill the pressure cooker with liquid and bring it to a boil on a high flame and add the salt.
  2. When the salt has melted, drizzle the polenta flour a little at a time while stirring clock-wise (you can choose any direction, but stick to it so that the polenta flour does not glop together).
  3. Give it a final stir to keep it moving and quickly close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker.
  4. Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
  5. Electric pressure cookers and stove top pressure cookers: Cook for 8 minutes at high pressure.
  6. When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Slow Normal release - release the pressure very slowly. If the release speed cannot be regulated by your cooker's valve, simply release pressure in short bursts. If anything other than steam comes out of the valve, stop and wait 10 seconds before continuing to release pressure slowly (or in small bursts), again.
  7. Stir vigorously and transfer to individual dishes, or pour out on a wooden cutting board or follow one of the methods suggested above.

To Clean The Pressure Cooker:

  1. After removing as much polenta as possible, immediately pour 1 cup of white vinegar in the still-warm pan and fill with as much hot water from the sink as you need to cover the remaining polenta that will be stuck to the bottom.
  2. Let it sit for a couple of hours, even better if overnight.
  3. Most of it should have come off quite easily, if there is anything still stuck tackle it with a plastic scrubby-sponge.

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (5)

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (6)

Pep-up The Basic Polenta Recipe
Do not use all of these suggestions at the same time, please!

  • Substitute a small portion of the water with milk, cream, or stock/broth.
  • If you have the skin of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano in the back of your fridge throw it into the water as you bring it to a boil. Remove with tongs (and put in a baggie in the freezer to conserve for your next polenta) before adding the polenta flour.
  • Add a mix of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, sage, thyme”) to the boiling water before adding the polenta
  • Add a Bay Laurel leaf to the boiling water before adding the polenta – remove before serving
  • Chop a salami, prosciutto, or pancetta in small cubes and add to the boiling water before adding the polenta flour.

Suggested Toppings for Creamy Polenta
– a simple grating of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
– sauteed sausage chunks and onion slivers
– mixed mushrooms and garlic in a red-wine reduction with a sprinkle of fresh parsley
– meat sauce
– roast or stewed beef, pork, chicken, or rabbit
– ground walnuts, gorgonzola and truffle flakes (or oil)
– sauteed spinach or greens with garlic
– pressure-cooked tomato lentils

Suggested Toppings for Solid Polenta
– a caprese salad
– pan-seared zucchini and garlic with fresh tomato cubes
– peperonata

Suggested Toppings for Oven-Baked Polenta
-Make white polenta, and serve a warm rectangle with seafood in place of rice or pasta.
– Add toppings noted for the creamy polenta, above.
-Add toppings before baking: place whole fresh sage leaves on each shape, and then put Gorgonzola, or any blue cheese, on top before putting in the oven.
-Turn it into a polenta “lasagna” by pouring out the polenta in layers in a casserole dish alternating layers of polenta with mozzarella cubes and tomato sauce

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (7)

Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations (2024)


What is the difference between polenta and quick cook polenta? ›

The difference between them comes down to the grain itself. Instant or quick-cooking polenta will be finely ground, resembling regular cornmeal, so that it can absorb the cooking liquid in just a matter of minutes. Traditional-style polenta grains will be medium- or coarse-ground for the best texture.

What is the secret to making polenta? ›

Lumps are the biggest pitfall in making polenta, but it's easy to avoid them. Pour the cornmeal into the water gradually – NOT all at once – and whisk constantly as you do it. The constant whisking will evenly disperse the cornmeal grounds in the water, so they won't have a chance to clump together.

How do you make Martha Stewart polenta? ›

In a large, deep saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. While whisking constantly, add polenta in a slow, steady stream. Reduce heat to medium, cook until thickened, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese, heavy cream, and butter.

How is polenta eaten in Italy? ›

Polenta, slow simmered ground corn, is eaten in many ways, as a main or side dish. It can be served simply, with just butter and cheese, or topped with sauce. It is often spread out to dry a bit and then baked, fried or grilled.

Is polenta better for you than mashed potatoes? ›

Polenta is a healthful alternative to other side dishes, such as potatoes, pasta, and rice. Because it does not have a strong flavor, it can accompany a variety of foods. To get the most nutritious polenta, a person should consider buying cornmeal that is stone ground.

What are 2 types of polenta? ›

Polenta is ground cornmeal. There are two maint types of polenta meal: fioretto and bramata (there is also taragna, which is a mixture of bramata and buckwheat meal). Then there is instant polenta, which is pretty disgusting but cooks in a few minutes.

Why do Italians love polenta? ›

To say that 18th-century Northern Italians loved polenta wouldn't be wrong, but it also wouldn't be the complete picture. They chowed down on polenta largely because they had to — especially in agrarian regions of Italy which relied on corn as a staple crop.

How do you make polenta taste better? ›

Fortify your base. Polenta is usually made with water or milk, which results in a more neutral flavor. Next time you make it, try using a liquid with a little more personality: stock, either vegetable or otherwise, and coconut milk will both add depth to the final dish.

Do you have to stir polenta constantly? ›

Now, as I said above, you don't actually have to stir the polenta constantly for a full hour as it cooks, but it does require frequent attention.

Is semolina the same as polenta? ›

What Is the Difference Between Polenta and Semolina? As polenta is made from corn, it's gluten-free. Semolina, on the other hand, is coarsely ground, high-gluten durum wheat used to make pasta, cakes, and breads. Photo by Getty Images.

What is the American version of polenta? ›

Grits are an American invention that uses a Native American grain and the European technology of the grist mill. Grits, like modern day polenta, are ground up corn.

What is polenta called in America? ›

However, cornmeal polenta is by far the most common preparation and today, particularly in the United States, when you hear the term "polenta," it refers to the cornmeal version.

What makes the best polenta? ›

You want coarse, stone-ground yellow corn to make the most delicious polenta. Instant polenta is parboiled, and while it does cook in less time than it takes to boil water, the trade-off is that the final product is often a gummy, gloopy mess. So, always avoid it. For the real deal, the extra time is worth it.

Why does my polenta fall apart? ›

After placing the polenta into the pan, don't touch it until a crust has formed. When the crust forms it will release from the pan. If you play with it, you won't get a crust to form and it'll come apart.

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