Can’t find dry cornmeal at the store? This delicious creamy side dish can be made using polenta from a tube. This creamy homemade parmesan polenta is healthy, vegetarian and gluten-free—and it’s also super simple to make!
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Is it just me, or is polenta one of those ingredients that can be really underwhelming unless you know the proper way to prepare them?
Some dishes are really hard to mess up. But as for polenta, it typically turns out really bland if you don’t know what you’re doing. I actually spent years disliking it because I’d never tried a good recipe for it.
Thankfully, once you do know how to prepare it, polenta can be really flavourful and versatile. It’s also really easy to make, and makes a lovely gluten-free accompaniment to wide variety of dishes.
Fried polenta adds a good crunch to your meal, but if you really want to make it shine, creamy polenta is the way to go. And while a lot of people probably prepare it with dried cornmeal, it may not always be available at the store.
Thankfully, it turns out that tubed polenta can also be turned into a creamy, cheesy side dish to accompany your dinner!
Where Can I Buy Tubed Polenta?
This may be different elsewhere, but I’ve found that in my area, tubed polenta is actually easier to find than dry cornmeal. It’s available in pretty much every grocery store, and they even sell one-kilo logs of it at Walmart.
If you live in the United States, you can try Walmart too, or you can get it from Trader Joe’s. Both usually carry 18-ounce tubes of pre-cooked polenta, which would work perfectly for the purposes of this recipe.
How to Make Creamy Polenta from a Tube
Here’s what you’ll need to turn a log of polenta into a delicious side dish of creamy parmesan polenta:
- Tubed polenta
- Vegetable broth (you can also use water, but the dish won’t be as flavourful)
- Ground black pepper
Whenever I make this dish, I like to use my immersion blender to break up the polenta more easily. That being said, you can also break up the polenta using a metal whisk or the back of a regular wooden mixing spoon, so if you don’t have an immersion blender, you’ll still be able to prepare this dish.
Important Note About Saucepan Size
This recipe used to call for a lot more vegetable broth, but it was updated on March 23, 2022 following some reader feedback.
While I was able to make this recipe successfully using a larger amount of broth, one reader who tried it felt that the result was far too runny. After doing some testing, I realized that the size of the saucepan has a huge impact on the consistency of the finished dish and on the amount of liquid required to make it.
Because I was using a larger saucepan, I needed to use more vegetable broth to cover the polenta cubes. This meant that the polenta needed to simmer for a lot longer or risk being too runny.
By using a smaller saucepan, I was able to reduce both the amount of vegetable broth and the cooking time. Although the cubes of polenta weren’t completely covered with broth, they broke down a lot more easily in the smaller saucepan and didn’t need to cook for as long.
So for best results, make sure to use the SMALLEST saucepan you own when making this dish!
1. Cut Polenta
Start by cutting open a 500-gram roll of polenta with scissors and using a knife to cut the polenta into small cubes.
2. Cover with Broth
When you’re done cutting the polenta tube, place all the cubes in a small saucepan (see the note above regarding its size) and cover them with 1 cup of vegetable broth. The cubes won’t be completely covered, but as long as the saucepan you’re using is small enough, they should still be able to cook properly.
I like to use powdered broth because it allows me to control the amount of flavour and salt, but you don’t have to. If you do decide to use powdered broth, I recommend boiling the water and adding the powder to it before you pour the broth onto the polenta cubes.
Note: You can also use water, but you’ll probably have to add more salt or if you don’t want your dish to come out very bland.
3. Soften Polenta
Turn on the element and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the polenta cubes have softened and broken down. This should take no more than 15 minutes, but can vary depending on the strength of your cooking element.
4. Add Milk
Add ½ cup of milk and stir until combined.
5. Cream Polenta
If you’ve decided to use an immersion blender (which I highly recommend), now is the time to use it. Submerge it in the polenta and run it until the mixture is thick and creamy and all the lumps have disappeared.
You can also do this by hand if you don’t have an immersion blender. However, it will take a little longer because it will require you to crush the soft polenta cubes using a metal whisk or the back of a wooden spoon.
I’ve done it both ways and I much prefer the immersion blender method, but since not everyone has one at home, it’s good to know there’s an alternative.
6. Add Parmesan
Add ½ cup of parmesan and stir until combined. Let simmer for one or two minutes before moving on to the next step.
7. Season Polenta
Turn off the heat and add salt and pepper to the polenta in order to season it. I added ½ teaspoon of salt, but the amount you need will depend on how salty your broth and parmesan are.
You can also add a bit more milk if you feel that your polenta is too thick and you’d like it to be creamier.
Once your polenta is properly seasoned, it’s time to eat! Pour some polenta into a bowl with some parmesan sprinkled on top and serve it as a side dish.
Personally, I love to mix sautéed vegetables into the polenta for added flavour. I’ve found that mushrooms, onions and asparagus work particularly well.
That being said, this cheesy parmesan polenta is definitely flavourful enough to eat on its own!
Creamy Polenta from a Tube
- 1 immersion blender (optional)
- 1 tube (500 g) polenta
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup milk or more to taste
- ½ cup parmesan
- ½ tsp salt or more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cut polenta into small cubes.
- Place the cubes of polenta in a small saucepan and cover with vegetable broth.
- Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the cubes of polenta have softened and broken down. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Lower the heat to simmer and stir in the milk.
- Use an immersion blender to break up the remaining chunks of polenta and make the mixture smooth, thick and creamy. If you don't have an immersion blender, use a metal whisk or the back of a wooden spoon. (This will take longer.)
- Add parmesan and stir until combined. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- Season polenta with salt and pepper. If desired, add a bit more milk to make the polenta extra creamy. Sprinkle some parmesan on top and serve immediately, either on its own or with sautéed onions or vegetables.
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