This recipe is for anyone who wants a dish that’s (a) quick to make, (b) easy to digest, and (c) deeply comforting. I recommend it to clients eating a doctor-recommended low-residue diet, folks who have trouble chewing and swallowing (for instance, following oral surgery, or during cancer treatments to the mouth and throat), and to anyone wanting to gain weight.

Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made from coarsely ground yellow or white cornmeal. It’s similar to porridge in texture and can be served creamy or allowed to cool and solidify into a firmer consistency that can be sliced and grilled or fried. Polenta has been a staple food in Italian cuisine for centuries and is commonly served as a side dish, a base for main courses, or as a component in various recipes.

To make polenta, cornmeal is mixed with water or broth and cooked over low heat, requiring frequent stirring to prevent clumping. When using traditional, coarsely ground corn, the cooking process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on the desired texture and the coarseness of the cornmeal used. However, you can reduce the cooking time to 5-10 minutes by using more finely ground corn (I like Bob’s Red Mill’s Yellow Corn Polenta).

Once cooked, polenta can be seasoned with salt, butter, cheese, herbs, or other flavorings according to personal taste preferences.

Polenta is not what you might call a “nutritional powerhouse,” but it’s a delightfully creamy foil for other, highly nutritious and flavorful accompaniments, such as mushrooms cooked with garlic & herbs (I would add spinach to this recipe), chicken cacciatore, Bolognese sauce (or any other meat stew), or shrimp cooked with basil and tomatoes or a garlicky white wine sauce.

Lastly, polenta — like all corn products — has a pretty high glycemic impact when eaten on its own (i.e., it may cause your blood glucose and insulin levels to rise relatively sharply). But as you have read in some of my other recipes (notably Meatballs & Spaghetti), combining a glycemic carbohydrate-rich food with protein, fat, fiber, and something acidic (lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, etc.) can significantly reduce the glycemic impact of the carb by slowing down the speed at which the meal leaves the stomach and its components enter the bloodstream.

Here, therefore, we cook the polenta in chicken bone broth, stir in two types of cheese, and finish the dish with a pat of butter, thus adding significant amounts of both protein and fat. If you were to top the polenta with meat, fish, or seafood as described above, or accompany it with a fiber-rich side salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, the polenta’s glycemic impact might be even further lessened (though in this case, you might want to eat a smaller serving of polenta to avoid feeling over-full).

Quick & Easy Cheesy Polenta

Keyword: 15 Minutes Max., Convalescent/Comfort Food, Gluten-Free (or can be), Sides
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 341kcal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 cups chicken bone broth homemade or store-bought; the quantity of broth depends on the consistency you desire: 4 cups = relatively firm polenta, 5 cups = more creamy. You cd start with 4 cups and add a little more broth or water to adjust to the desired texture.
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a pinch of nutmeg finely grated
  • 1 cup polenta I used Bob's Red Mill's Yellow Corn Polenta to test this recipe
  • 5 oz extra-sharp/mature cheddar coarsely grated; I love Kirkland's Coastal Cheddar with its rich umami flavor
  • 2 tbsp butter get the best-quality butter you can afford; I love Kerrygold butter, which is made with the milk of grass-fed Irish cows
  • 5 tbsp Parmesan cheese grated

Instructions

  • In a medium pot, bring 4 cups of chicken bone broth to a medium boil. Add salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and nutmeg.
  • Using a wire whisk, slowly whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat. Cook slowly for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Fold the grated cheddar into the thickened polenta. Cover and remove from the heat; let stand for 2-3 minutes until the cheese has melted and the polenta has thickened further. If desired, add a little broth or water to thin the polenta.
  • Serve in bowls and top with a pat of butter and a tablespoon (or more) of grated Parmesan cheese. If adding other toppings (seafood, meat, fish, etc.), omit the butter.
  • In a tightly sealed container, this keeps for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. It may thicken further with refrigeration, so when reheating, you may wish to add a little extra broth, water or milk. Freezes well.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving of 5 | Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 746mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.4g | Vitamin A: 532IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 263mg | Iron: 0.5mg