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

4.7 from 7 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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57 Comments

  1. Awesome!!! I was just wondering if polenta could be made in the PC. Can’t wait to try this… but a little scared of the scorching part too :-/

  2. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but after soaking overnight… that whole yellow part in the picture came up in one piece, the rest required very little scrubbing with one of those simple two-sided sponges!

  3. I love polenta in the pressure cooker. Here Susan at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen cooked it and shared my recipe. I use just over 4 cups of water for 1 cup polenta and rarely have a sticking issue. People really like it, too.
    Thanks for sharing the many different forms for eating it.
    http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2009/03/herbed-polenta-with-beans-and-bok-choy.html

  4. Hi Laura,

    Absolutely LOVING your blog, I recently got an electric pressure cooker (cuisinart) and I’m inlove with it, I’ve tried your creme caramel already (amazing) and I made the pasta sauce (not as amazing I kinda over did it a little haha)

    Anyway I’ve run into a problem with making polenta in the pressure cooker, I followed your instructions exactly (except I added a little butter) and before the pc could come up to pressure it automatically switched to keep warm.

    I used regular polenta you can get in Australia (it’s not quick cook or anything of the sort)

    Any ideas?

  5. When I opened the pc it was thick and looked almost like ready polenta.

    I’ll check the polenta packet, the stuff I have here is more like fine sugar.

    I’ll give it another go right now and see how I get along

  6. oh it does say 20 minutes on the back.

    I tried it a second time but alas it did the same thing, however it automatically changes to keep warm and while at that setting the pressure release doesn’t drop until I manually release the pressure, so I just left it there for oh maybe 6 to 10 minutes and when I released the pressure and opened it, tasted the results it wasn’t bad at all.

    The polenta was creamy, I could feel the grains but they weren’t hard, actually rather soft and I liked the flavor and texture (the extra butter at the end helped)

    But I’m unsure of how it’s suppose to be since I’ve never had it anywhere before.

    I’ve run out now so tomorrow I”ll go out and try to find a better polenta and give the recipe another go again.

  7. Ciao Ben, welcome! So glad to hear about what you’ve been trying.

    When you opened your pressure cooker, what did you find? Had the polenta already partially solidified? It sounds like it tried to reach pressure but couldn’t because there was no more water vapor in there to make it.

    I recommend stirring and closing your pressure cooker a little sooner so that it has a chance to boil and make vapor before solidifying. The butter was a great idea and should not hinder the pressurizing process at all!

    Also, check your polenta package to see what the ratio is for your specific polenta. I use the rustic grain and the grains are almost the size of Demarara sugar.

    Ciao,

    L

  8. Also, check the cooking time on the package. If it’s less than 20 minutes you have a refined “faster” polenta. You may still be able to pressure cook it but in even less time than is stated in this recipe (maybe 3 minutes).

    Ciao,

    L

  9. Look for the words “coarse ground” or “brmata” on the package and just give it a quick stir and close your pressure cooker immediately.

    Ciao!

    L

  10. This is awesome. Has the texture of the one my Zia Lena used to make for my dad. Stove top polenta, you are gone forever.

    1. So glad to hear that you hit the spot with this one and it’s so close to the original!

      Ciao,

      L

  11. I’m cooking polenta for 100 people for a fundraiser tomorrow. This recipe has saved me a massive amount of time and energy! Thanks

    1. What a great choice! Polenta is “fancy” and can re-heated or served at room temperature. Best of luck with the fund-raiser!

      Ciao,

      L

  12. Laura,
    I would add the cleaning instructions to your Tips & Tricks. I was looking for cleaning tips and couldn’t remember where I saw them. I finally found them here, in a polenta recipe :-)

    1. Thanks for the great suggestion! Will work on it. There are other types of cleaning products that can be used depending on the severity of the burn-on, baked-on or stuck-on but I want to wait ’til I come to the U.S. to find comparable products to those I use here (in Italy) – so after this summer for certain I will do a “special” on the levels of dirt, and cleaning.

      Ciao,

      L

  13. Laura,

    Try making corn stock and use that as a water replacement. It will add to the flavor.

    I’ve ordered the KR duo and should have them in 2 more days. Thanks for the great site.

    Mike

    1. I use the steaming liquid from any veggie, but corn sounds VERY appropriate.

      Leave me a message to let me know what recipes you try with your new pressure cookers!

      Ciao,

      L

  14. Just tried the recipe and it was amazing! Thank you so much for inspiring me to (a) buy a pressure cooker and (b) try different techniques with it. I love your website.
    Re sticking…after the polenta cooks, if you use a *flat* whisk and stir hard, scraping up the bottom as you go, you will have very little stuck on the bottom when you are done. Don’t worry, scraping up and whisking the stuff on the bottom doesn’t give you chunks in the polenta; you are whisking out any chunks.
    Anne

    1. Anne, what is a flat whisk? Never heard of it. Now I MUST have one!

      Ciao,

      L

  15. Hi Laura,

    Here’s a link to a catalog page with a very inexpensive one for sale. I think most companies make them (mine is Rosle). I find that I use the flat whisk more than the other kind because it allows you to get the corners of the pan more easily. BTW, I use the whisk to stir in the polenta, too.

    http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/26067-oxo-flat-whisk.aspx?sourcecode=DW3GGP336&gclid=CJuwy-r1xLUCFQ6ynQodVQMA3A

  16. I love this recipe and use it all the time. Doing this bain-marie style works really well for me. I just fill the pressure cooker partially with water, put the polenta ingredients in a suitable container, and float it in the pressure cooker. I cook it longer, around 45 minutes in a cuisinart electric cooker on high pressure…comes out beautifully and no sticking. Thanks again for this recipe and for a great site. I love both!!

  17. This sounds great, I’m gonna try it… and 1/4 cup dry polenta cornmeal is only 3 weight watcher points. Only thing is, Laura, elsewhere I’ve seen recommended serving sizes of 1/2 cup dry per person… do you think 1/4 cup dry will be enough for men? I guess I’ll find out and I guess it all depends what else you serve with it.

    The challenge with things like this in a pressure cooker is always the scorching at the bottom, eh? I like the realistic approach in this recipe which says, yep, gonna happen, and here’s how you cope with it. Wonder why they don’t make non-stick pressure cookers lol.

    1. Randal, 1/4 of a cup of dry polenta will get you a little more than 1 cup of cooked polenta – enough to line the bottom of a deep plate to hug a stew. : )

      Ciao,

      L

      1. Oh 1 cup cooked sounds like enough to eat, for sure! And good buy in ww points too, at only 3 points! Score! lol. Thanks!

  18. I was able to make a good creamy polenta on my first try without any scorching at the bottom of my pot by cooking at the lower pressure setting 1 for about 12 or 15 minutes with natural release, halving the recipe using 4 cups liquid (part vegetable broth) and 1 cup bramata corn flour, and otherwise following your instructions Laura. I just stirred vigorously after opening the lid and it firmed up just fine.

  19. Hi Laura. Tried your basic creamy polenta recipe and it worked like a charm — no more copper kettle for me. Very impressive!!

  20. Made this tonight. Used beef broth as the liquid. Added half-n-half, butter and some parmesan after it was done. My pot did not have any build up on the bottom (It’s a BRK stovetop model if that makes any difference). It all stirred up. Served it creamy tonight and immediately poured the remainder into a loaf pan for oven baked polenta later in the week. Wonderful recipe – thank you very much!

  21. Love your blog. Have done coarse polenta perfectly with no scorching in my electric pc many times but have not attempted find ground yet, which is regrettably what I have in my pantry. It’s not instant but there are no recipes/times for polenta on the package. Any suggestions?

    1. Thanks for the compliment Sara, this is a website, not a blog. You can cook finer polenta it using the same liquid ratio and cooking time as coarse – but it won’t turn out very well. You’ll get some lumps stuck in it. So when you’re stirring vigorously at the end be sure to find them and remove before serving.

      Ciao,

      L

  22. Hi there. I want to share my experience.
    I started making PC polenta many years ago. I too took inspiration from the Italian web site Laura mentions in the post. At the time I was happy with the method – I even published a recipe for it in the rather famous Italian food website I was working for at the time. My cooking time was longer than Laura’s (20-30 minutes/this is incidentally the same cooking time that the Italian born-Uk resident doyenne of Italian food, Ms Anna del Conte (the one Ms Hazan trusted completely, just to give u an idea of the quality of this woman’s recipes) gives in one of her books. Then I forgot about PC polenta.

    Last yr or earlier I came across Laura’s recipe and i tried it again, with her cooking time. It worked at the time. Over the last monthsI have tried to cook PC polenta few times, using a super polenta flour (organic, stone ground) and…. it did not work out at all!… instead of polenta I had this pappy thing, which had to be chucked away. This happened few times…. I then decided to understand why this was happening…. after much researching and few other trials WITH DIFFERENT BRANDS.. I have come to the conclusion that… PC polenta CAN work, but it really depends on the flour one uses.
    Right now (here in London) I am using what is regarded also in Italy the best polenta, polenta from MULINO MARINO (NO, I DO NOT HAVE CONNECTION TO THEM IN ANY WAY)…. they suggest cooking their polenta … wait… for 2 hours!…. and I agree with them… only with this length cooking their polenta becomes really sweet and fluffy. I tried again cooking it in the PC for 30 minutes.. and I did not go anywhere near classic creamy polenta, so I gave up. I tried with another stone ground organic brand and…. good results! (cooking time: 30 minutes/I have never ever had good results with the 8 minutes reccomended by Laura/this does not mean there is something wrong with the recipe of course). So the message is: use this recipe as a guide line and if you find a brand that works, stick to it.

    + I have seldom have the problem of a badly burnt bottom: I make sure to use the faintest flame, just enough to keep the pressure up/I then let the PC rest on a folded WET towel.

    + lately I have been adopting a trick learnt from the excellent SERIOUS EATS: if you pre hydrate the polenta, the cooking time is much, much reduced (check serious eats)(the same applies to rice and pasta, of course).

    + having said all this, I have to admit that for me the best cooking method for polenta is the one recommended by the excellent Judy Rogers in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: first you cook the polenta in the traditional way, stirring from time (a la Marcella Hazan, with the lid on and whisking occasionally), then you transfer the lot over a bain marie and let the polenta swell for another hour… I know. rather long, but excellent. This is the method I used in my (now sold) restaurant and even the generally polenta-unloving British customer went mad about it.
    hope this helps and makes sense
    ciao
    stefano

  23. Any thoughts on how to clean this recipe up & make it Instant Pot friendly? I DEARLY love the flavor but with my poor old air conditioner I’m trying to avoid using the stove as much as possible…

    1. Sorry OKmamaj, I accidentally deleted the link you included when I approved the comment. Please come back and post it again and I’ll take a look at it.

      Ciao,

      L

        1. OKmammaJ, the Food Network recipe uses the exact same proportions as the technique on this page – so you can just follow the technique above, but use Ina’s recipe. She just stirs in the parmesan and creme fraiche at the end so that’s what you should do, too.

          I’ve made the plain polenta in the Instant Pot – it scorches, too. : )

          When you open the Instant Pot you’ll see a lumpy bubbly mess – quickly whip that around with a wooden spoon and it will smooth out.

          Remember to have the water boiling before you close the lid (using saute’ mode).

          Ciao,

          L

  24. I love polenta. When we first moved, we had very little money and could not even afford meat except once or twice a month. I cooked polenta often. Hubby’s favorite is polenta from the freezer thawed, fried and topped with carmelized onions.
    Haven’t tried it in the pressure cooker yet but hope to soon. : )

  25. Could you cook the polenta inside mason jars or a casserole dish in the pressure cooker? I thought it might be a good way to make cleaning up and molding the polenta easier, but I’m not sure if it will work.

    1. I’ve seen some bloggers do this – so maybe it works somehow. I’m guessing if you don’t care about whether you’re getting corn pudding or polenta it’s worth a shot.

      Ciao,

      L

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