Pressure Cooker Polenta 5 Ways!

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.

sagra della polenta - festival in italy
Sagra della Polenta, Sermoneta ITALY

 

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

Pressure Cooker Polenta TypesCreamy 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, a gelatinus 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.

Pressure Cooker Polenta Burned Pressure Cooker Bottom

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

Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
6 L or larger none 8 min. High(2) Slow Normal

4.5 from 4 reviews
Basic Pressure Cooker Polenta Recipe
 
Author: 
Recipe type: pressure cooker
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
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.
INGREDIENTS
  • 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
INSTRUCTIONS
  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.

How to make pressure cooker polenta - part 1How to make pressure cooker polenta - part 2

 

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 from the pressure cooker!

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46 Comments

  1. This scorched the bottom of my pan and never came up to pressure. Perhaps some recipes are not meant to be pressure cooked. Quite disappointed.

    1. This will happen if the contents were not brought up to a boil and moving before closing the lid or didn’t use the correct polenta type (instant polenta, for example).

      If you did all of this, please let us know what your level of experience is with pressure cooking, what model pressure cooker you have (and if it’s a stovetop on what kind of cooktop you use it with) and, of course, if you made any variations or ingredient substitutions to the basic recipe.

      Many, including myself, have been able to make this recipe successfully so let’s troubleshoot so you can make it, too!

      Ciao,

      L

  2. This recipe worked very well for me, and cleaning was much easier than anticipated. I used a plastic cookware scraper to take off most of what was stuck to the bottom of my instant pot, and finished off with some bar keeper’s friend. Thanks for another great recipe!

  3. I made this for my dad who was raised eating firm polenta as a staple back in Treviso. He loved it! He told me that back in his day they would just let the pot soak in cold water for 20-30 min For easy clean up. Just scraped it off with a wooden spoon.

    1. So great to hear your “Polentone” dad enjoyed the pressure cooker version!!!

      Ciao,

      L

  4. I was skeptical at first time but I cooked polenta in a pressure cooker yes it burned but shortened the cooking time and it was delicious. Thank you for the recipe!

  5. If I half it, do I cook it for less time? Thanks

    1. Hi Ivan,

      No, you do not need to reduce the cooking time. Cornmeal takes the same time to pressure cook whether you’re cooking 1/2 a cup or 2 cups.

      Ciao,

      L

  6. Hi Laura
    I have never made PLOENTA before, my friend told me to try it as it is such a versatile food, so I thought why not, I have just made my very 1st batch of polenta using your directions and have it cooling down now, I just wanted to let you know mine did not stick, I made it in a silit 4.5 litre stove top cooker (I have a gas stove) and I also used a diffuser under the cooker, perfect, no sticking/ scorching, now let’s hope I like the taste of Polenta.
    Thank you keep up the wonderful job.

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