Italian Porridge: Best Cheesy Polenta Recipe

Italian Porridge is the ultimate carb-lovers comfort food.

Our Cheesy Polenta Recipe is deliciously creamy, featuring shredded parmesan, gruyere and cheddar cheese.

Enjoy Italian porridge in the morning for breakfast topped with poached eggs and fresh herbs. Or make a big pot of our cheesy polenta recipe for dinner accompanied by roasted vegetables or topped with beef ragu.

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What Is Italian Porridge?

Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal that was historically made from other ancient grains. The dish is a descendant of grain mush, known as puls or pulmentum in Latin, that was commonly eaten as far back as Roman times.

Before the introduction of maize from America in the 16th century, cheesy polenta was made from starchy ingredients like farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt and chickpeas.

It may be served as a hot Italian porridge, or allowed to cool and solidify into a loaf that can be baked, fried or grilled.

Cornmeal is available for purchase in a variety of grinds. Course grinds make a firm polenta that is ideal for grilling, baking and frying. Finer grinds of cornmeal are perfect for cooking smooth & cheesy polenta.

Today, Italian porridge is a staple in Northern Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia and the Balkans such as Estonia and Latvia.

Ingredients you'll need to make traditional Italian Porridge.
Ingredients you’ll need to make traditional Italian Porridge.

Travel to Italy by Making Cheesy Polenta at Home

I love traveling to Europe!

During my first visit to the continent I traveled for 5 months by train and plane. I had the opportunity to eat my way through IrelandScotlandEnglandWalesPortugalSpainFranceBelgiumHollandDenmarkNorwaySwedenFinlandRussiaEstoniaLatviaPolandCzech RepublicGermanyAustriaCroatiaBosniaHungarySlovakiaGreeceTurkey and Italy.

What I love most about traveling to Italy is the opportunity to sample unique dishes in each region and city. The dishes in Tuscany (FlorencePisaVolterraSaturniaPitiglianoSoranoMontalcinoSiena) are unique from what you’d find in VeniceModenaMilanRome, and Amalfi Coast.

If you’re visiting Tuscany on a romantic honeymoon you’ll find homemade Italian porridge served at most hotels for breakfast. Cheesy polenta is typically served in the evening as a compliment to beef ragu or roasted vegetables.

Once back home from an Italian holiday you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the flavours of Tuscany and can impress friends and family by making our homemade cheesy polenta recipe.

Prepare Cheesy Polenta with cornmeal and cream in a pot over the stove.
Prepare Cheesy Polenta with cornmeal and cream in a pot over the stove.

Where To Eat Italian Porridge

If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to a local Italian restaurant that serves traditional cheesy polenta.

Haven’t traveled to Italy before? It may be helpful to first sample cheesy polenta at a local Italian restaurant to better understand how the dish might be served. Order Italian porridge off a restaurant menu to get an idea of the desired thickness of the creamy cornmeal.

In Toronto, popular Italian restaurants in YorkvilleKing West and Ossington that may serve cheesy polenta include Bar VendettaBucaSuperpointAmanoFabbricaOrettaFIGONodoLocale MercattoThe Good SonTaverna MercattoAscari EnotecaIl Fornello or Gusto 101.

Our Italian Porridge recipe features cream cheese, cheddar, gruyere and parmesan.
Our Italian Porridge recipe features cream cheese, cheddar, gruyere and parmesan.

My Family Loves Cheesy Polenta

Like many Canadians and Americans, one of my families favourite comfort foods to enjoy at dinner is pasta. While pasta is Italy’s most famous carb, you’ll find cheesy polenta is just as satisfying.

Since my family is Scottish it’s know wonder we grew up eating cream of wheat and oatmeal at breakfast. After traveling to Italy we fell in love with cheesy polenta because its ingredients are affordable, it’s simple and easy to make and very versatile.

We typically double the recipe and enjoy a pot of cheesy polenta for dinner with beef ragu. We store the leftover Italian porridge in a greased cake pan or casserole dish and store it in the fridge overnight. The following day the cheesy polenta will be firm so you can easily slice it to make grilled cornmeal cakes or crunchy polenta fries.

We typically include 4 types of cheese in our Italian porridge, cream cheese, cheddargruyere and parmiggiano reggiano.

Constantly stir Cheesy Polenta with a whisky until creamy and smooth.
Constantly stir Cheesy Polenta with a whisky until creamy and smooth.

How To Make Homemade Italian Porridge

There are many tricks and traditions to making homemade Italian porridge.

Nona’s in Tuscany are famous for standing over a large pot of bubbling cheesy polenta throughout the afternoon. Every family has their own unique method of preparing cheesy polenta.

Some Italian cooks suggest using a large whisk while others prefer a wooden spoon. It’s important you use a large pot and stir continuously over low heat. If the stove is too hot the bottom will burn and the polenta will bubble and splatter all over your stove.

The simple trick to making the best Italian porridge is heating at a low temperature and constantly stirring. Once the mixture is creamy and just before serving, mix in the cheeses until fully combined.

This cheesy polenta recipe can be simplified to be vegan friendly. Simply substitute the butter with vegetable oil, chicken stock with mushroom or vegetable broth and omit the cheeses.

Once smooth, combine cheeses into Italian porridge before serving.
Once smooth, combine cheeses into Italian porridge before serving.

What To Serve with Cheesy Polenta

Italian porridge prepared with cheese, cream and butter is so simple and delicious it can be enjoyed on its own with a little salt, pepper and freshly chopped herbs.

If you’re looking to serve a more balanced meal, prepare a breakfast polenta bowl topped with poached eggs, tomatoes, buttered mushrooms and crispy bacon.

Cheesy polenta is often served as a main course at dinner when topped with beef ragu or roasted vegetables.

Serve Italian porridge with cold butter, chives, salt and pepper.
Serve Italian porridge with cold butter, chives, salt and pepper.

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Enjoy Cheesy Polenta on its own or topped with beef ragu.
Enjoy Cheesy Polenta on its own or topped with beef ragu.

Easy Italian Porridge Cheesy Polenta Recipe

Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Italian Porridge Cheesy Polenta Recipe

Looking to make easy homemade Italian Porridge? Our cheesy polenta recipe is creamy and smooth, featuring cream cheese, parmesan, gruyere and cheddar.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6
Calories: 298kcal

Equipment

  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • whisk
  • pot
  • cheese grater

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Milk
  • 1/2 cup Cream
  • 1/2 cup Chicken stock
  • 1 cup Cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan finely grated
  • 1/2 cup Swiss cheese finely grated
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar finely grated
  • 1/4 cup Cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Bring milk, cream, chicken stock and 3 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium.
  • Whisking constantly, gradually add cornmeal; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook, whisking every 10–15 minutes, until thickened and no longer gritty, 30–35 minutes.
  • Remove Italian Porridge from heat and add grated cheeses, cream cheese, butter, pepper and salt. Cook, whisking, until butter and cheese are melted and polenta is the consistency of porridge, about 1 minute.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs such as thyme or chives.

Nutrition

Calories: 298kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 11.8g | Fat: 19.2g | Saturated Fat: 11.6g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 330mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 1.5g | Sugar: 4.4g | Calcium: 286mg | Iron: 1mg

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