No more stirring polenta on the stove! Oven-baked polenta cooks all by itself in the oven. It's creamy and comforting and everyone in the family can add their favorite toppings.
Oven-baked polenta is a meal I used to make years ago and then for some reason completely forgot about until recently, when a box of cornmeal kept staring back at me in my pantry.
It finally dawned on me that polenta checks all the boxes for family meals.
- Easy? Check.
- Satisfying? Check.
- Affordable? Check.
Best of all, this is one of those customizable dinners that allows everyone at the table to make their own bowl with delicious toppings.
There's a detailed recipe at the bottom of the page, but honestly, oven-baked polenta is so easy you don't need a recipe.
- Combine 1 cup cornmeal with 4 to 5 cups water
- Add a little salt and olive oil or butter
- Bake for about an hour
That's it! This polenta cooks entirely on its own.
Here's the catch: This dinner is all about the toppings, so your work in kitchen isn't quite done yet. It's like baked potato night or taco night or fried rice night - you're going to need some yummy fixings on the side.
Here's the good news: I'm trying to think of something that doesn't taste good with the mild flavor of polenta, and I'm having a hard time coming up with anything. A bowl of creamy polenta is eager to soak up flavor and it pairs with just about anything.
You can mix and match and serve as many toppings as you like. No pressure, though. A bowl of polenta topped with just butter and grated cheese is perfection!
- Butter and grated cheese
- Sour cream, pesto, harissa or marinara sauce
- Fried egg or soft-boiled egg
- Sautéed kale or spinach
- Crumbled bacon, ground meat, cider-braised pork, chicken, sliced steak
- Stew or chili
- Meatballs or sausage
- Beans and lentils
- Roasted vegetables of any kind
- Sauteed Mushrooms
- Perhaps you have leftover meatballs in your freezer? Serve polenta with meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella.
- Black beans, cheddar, sour cream and green onions
- Pesto with shrimp
- Sausage and roasted vegetables
- Mushrooms, roasted squash and kale
- Soft-boiled eggs and bacon
Is Cornmeal the Same as Polenta?
Polenta is a dish you make, not a type of ground corn. To make polenta, the main ingredient is cornmeal.
Cornmeal is made by grinding dried corn kernels and is sold in three textures: fine, medium, and coarse. Traditionally, polenta is made from coarse ground cornmeal, and this is what a bag labeled as "polenta" should be. However, sometimes bags of cornmeal that are labeled as "polenta" are really medium-ground cornmeal. That's okay, too.
Don't use finely ground cornmeal to make polenta; it won't turn out. Also, don't use Masa Harina. Masa Harina is cornmeal made from corn kernels that have been soaked in lime water. It is used for tortillas and tamales, not polenta.
What Type of Cornmeal Should I Buy?
To make polenta, you need to use cornmeal that is ground to a coarse or medium texture, not finely ground. Unfortunately, not all packages of cornmeal indicate how they are ground.
For this reason, your safest bet is to buy cornmeal that is also labeled as "polenta." Cornmeal labeled as "polenta" should be coarse or medium ground cornmeal.
That being said, I often use regular old Albers yellow cornmeal to make polenta, found in most grocery stores. (Their easy cornbread recipe on the box is delicious too, by the way). I also really like Bob's Red Mill Cornmeal because they clearly indicate on their packaging if the cornmeal is coarse, medium or fine grind. Sometimes you'll see course ground cornmeal labeled as both polenta and grits, like Bob's Red Mill Grits Polenta.
If you're looking for a recipe that uses pre-cooked firm polenta that's sold in tubes, then try my Turkey Meatballs Baked with Polenta and Mozzarella.
More Recipes You'll Love
- Spinach Pesto
- Crockpot Beef and Barley Stew
- Instant Pot Bowtie Pasta with Quick Bolognese
- Instant Pot White Bean and Turkey Chili