Polenta, Creamy or Fried!

While The Feast of The Seven Fishes is celebrated among many Italians on Christmas Eve, my family prepares a large pot of creamy, golden polenta that we place slices of Fontina cheese on top and then pour on a hot Italian stew.  The hot polenta and stew melts the cheese so that the polenta becomes this cheesy, creamy dream under the stew.
We reserve Christmas Eve for this dish because my family in Montecreto, Italy had never heard of the Feast of Seven Fishes and because they lived in the mountains, they were nowhere near the sea to even purchase the fish.  The roads  in the mountains at the time were also only traveled by foot, so the distance and the difficulty added additional reasons for not obtaining fish to eat for Christmas or any time for that matter.
Polenta, now being so trendy in the food world, was literally one of the foods of the poor.  It was not luxury food at all, it was a humble necessity!  And a delicious necessity at that.
The wonderful thing about serving polenta on Christmas Eve is that if you make a large pot-full, as we do, then you have extra polenta to FRY the next day for Christmas morning.  This is truly my absolute favorite way to eat polenta . . . fried and crispy, and yes, with a slice of cheese melted on top!
To make polenta is quite easy; it just takes time.  Here is the very simple recipe that my family uses and that I am sure is followed by many other people as well:

Polenta, Creamy or Fried
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups ground polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. salt
  1. Bring water to a boil with salt in a 4-quart heavy pot.
  2. Slowly add polenta, whisking while pouring.
  3. Cook over medium heat while whisking for 2 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to low.
  5. Cover and simmer polenta, stir for 1 minute after every 10 minutes of cooking.
  6. Cook for a total of 45 minutes or until there is no 'gritty' texture, when it is 'creamy soft, very thick, and fairly firm, not runny.
  7. Remove from heat and serve hot.
  8. Place slices of Fontina on top to melt all over the hot polenta.
  9. For polenta to be fried:
  10. Place clear wrap in a bread baking pan.
  11. Pour in the polenta.
  12. Cover it with the wrap.
  13. Place in the refrigerate to get nice and firm.



When the polenta is chilled and firm, remove it from the baking pan and clear wrap.
Slice it and place in a large frying pan sprayed with oil on medium heat.
Fry each side until nicely browned.
Serve hot.
Pass slices of cheese around to melt on top of the hot, fried polenta.



Fry until golden brown and crispy!



Place Fontina cheese on top of each slice of polenta to melt.
You may also need to add a little extra heat from placing these in the microwave if the polenta cools off.
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  1. says

    Polenta fritta! Che bonta’ ! Noi mangiamo pesce alla Vigilia ma non per la Festa dei Setti Pesci … tradizione ma non avevamo sentito questo riferimento.

    We used to live close by! We are from Reggio Emilia and though there was no polenta in our Christmas Eve dinner …. I have a soft spot for Polenta and fried polenta what could be better!

  2. says

    I have never had polenta creamy , fried or any which way. It is something I have been wanting to try and was hoping to try in Italy, but never came across it.

  3. says

    Polenta appears to be the Italian version of Southern grits! And the fried kind looks and sounds especially scrumptious.

    Interesting factoid too that not all Italians knew about the 7 fishes tradition because they were not near the sea. Once again, I’ve learned from La Bella Vita and appreciated Roz’s writing and recipes.

    Blessings to you and yours today and in 2013.

    • says

      Yes, polenta is similar to Southern grits, just more creamy I think. I love cheese in grits too! But have never heard of fried grits!

      Blessings to you Ninja and Happy New Year 2013!

  4. says

    Ciao Roz,
    here in Lombardia we use to eat polenta, not for Chistmans Eve, but we love it very much.
    Christmans Eve is “di magro” it means no meat so your polenta is perfect!
    Blessing and happy new year!!!

  5. says

    After all the fish feasting I’ve done I could use a little polenta. I am pinning this and making it soon. Though my mother would complain, “Polenta, that’s Northern.” LOL

    • says

      I believe that your mother is correct, in that polenta is more Northern. But hey, its all Italian and therefore, it’s all delicious!

      buon anno Diane!

  6. says

    Your Christmas eve traditions are very different from ours since we eat only fish, but sometimes I serve grilled polenta with baccala mantecato. I will be making polenta in the next day or two — perfect food for these blustery winter days.

  7. says

    I have just loved having a look around your gorgeous, mouthwatering blog! I know I will become a regular visitor! As for the polenta, of course in our tropical summer heat at Christmas time we don’t serve it but in winter we love it! And yes, the best thing about having polenta is the leftovers. Mmmm fried for breakfast! I always looked forward to it as a child and still do today!My warmest wishes.

  8. says

    I love this and have eaten it all my life – we called it fried much and ate it on white bread so it became a bread sandwich. I really need to make up a batch and will use your recipe.

  9. says

    I adore polenta Roz, it’s one of my most favorite comfort foods. I also love your family tradition for Christmas Eve. Looking at your fried polenta is making me hungry right now, will be trying that soon for sure! Happy New Year!!

  10. says

    I have never heard in Italy about the Feast of the Seven Fishes. But after Halloween we can add also this feast in our calendar… :-)
    Polenta is very typical in Italy. Also my favourite is fried and crispy. I’m not able to hold up when I see it on the table.
    I wish you a very happy new year. All the best for next 2013!

    • says

      I agree llaria, I had never heard of it until 1979 when a woman of Southern Italian descent told me about it. It sounds wonderful and a great tradition! But give me polenta still, huh?

  11. says

    I almost always prefer it baked or fried but you know – looking at it – I’ll just eat it morning, noon or night. You have it down to perfection. Happy 2013, Roz to you and yours! May it bring goodness and deliciousness.

  12. says

    Oh Roz! That last picture just kills me. Man does that look delicious! I am so needing to try this out. Polenta has not been tried in this house yet so as I can clearly see, it is a must! Happy New Year!

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