In colder months, one craves food that is heavier and heartier. Peppery Creamy Polenta is certainly that type of food. It is warming and comforting, and prepared with lots of fresh ground black pepper, butter, and cheese. A perfect winter side, especially when served with beef!
Doesn’t this bowl of piping hot Peppery Creamy Polenta look delicious? Oh, I wish I had a bowl in front of me right now. I’m writing up this post and it’s -32 degrees C here today. For those of you who use Fahrenheit instead of Celsius, that’s about -25 degrees F. I’m sitting inside, and I’ve cranked the thermostat up, but it seems I just cannot get my feet warm today, despite my fleece-lined, grandpa-inspired plaid slippers!
It’s days like this when I crave for heavier foods. I always want something that is really hot and filling. Usually, for me, that means comfort food. And, comfort food in our home has cheese. So, let me tell you, Dear Reader, this polenta has a lot of cheese! Unlike most creamy polenta recipes, I’m using feta rather than the typical shredded cheddar. Feta is salty and it doesn’t melt down or become greasy like most cheeses. The little flecks of feta throughout this polenta make it even better!
Make your own online recipe box!
Click the in the lower right corner of your screen
& follow the quick and easy instructions!
IS POLENTA AND GRITS THE SAME THING?
I bet you’re wondering that, right? Most people assume that they are and they are both right and wrong. In a way, polenta and grits are the same thing in that they are both made with corn. But, the major difference is that polenta is made with yellow corn and grits is made with white corn. And, yes, in most cases, grits are found in the south. In fact, the first time I had them was years ago in Dallas, Texas. In contrast, polenta is usually found in Italy and often made with parmesan.
Polenta is more consistent in size than grits, and is generally ground to a fine or medium texture. It’s made from flint corn, which is harder and adds to the texture. That corn is yellow, which is what gives polenta its gold colour. Grits are sold in both coarse and medium grinds as well, but is most often prepared from white corn, which creates a silkier texture compared to polenta.
Don’t get these two confused with cornmeal, which is similar to polenta, but rather than being turned into a rich, savoury side dish, it’s used as an ingredient for baked goods like cornbread and corn muffins. Polenta and grits will work the same way and they are interchangeable. Just remember that one will be smoother than the other once cooking is finished.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR THIS RECIPE
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this recipe. For exact amounts and measurements, refer to the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
- Polenta – Read the product label carefully. You can use coarse grits or cornmeal too in this recipe. This is what I use.
- Butter – Use salted butter for this recipe. It adds more flavour.
- Cream – This is optional, but it does make the polenta even creamier. I use 35% whipping cream, but any full fat cream or milk will be fine.
- Ground Black Pepper – I love the warming taste of pepper, so I’m using a lot of it. You can cut it back if you want a more mildly flavoured polenta.
- Feta – The saltiness from the feta seasons this polenta. Since brands can vary in saltiness, be sure to taste the finished polenta and re-season with more salt if needed.
HEAVY CREAM VS WHIPPING CREAM
Confession time – I use them both interchangeably, depending on what is available at the store, or whatever is on sale! Both of these can be quite costly. If memory serves me correctly, a 250mL carton, or one cup, here in Canada, will run just short of $5! There is a difference in the two, but not enough to concern yourself with when it comes to Peppery Cream Polenta.
Just in case you’re interested, the most basic difference is the amount of fat contained in both. Whipping cream has 35% fat. It can be whipped into peaks and it’s also rich enough that it won’t curdle when heated in soups and sauces. It’s nearly identical to heavy cream so if a recipe calls for heavy cream and you can only find whipping cream, feel free to use that instead. In contrast, heavy cream, which is sometimes called heavy whipping cream, contains about 38% fat. Half and Half is a great substitution here as well!
HOW TO MAKE PEPPERY CREAMY POLENTA
This is a great recipe not only because it is so delicious, but because it is so easy to make. Even the clean up is easy, because all you need is a whisk and a large saucepan. Start by adding six cups of water to a large saucepan and over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Using a whisk to stir the polenta into the water, slowly add three cups of polenta. Keep it moving so that you are not left with clumps.
Reduce to simmer immediately. Continuing to stir, simmer the polenta for 20 minutes. Once done, turn off the heat and move the saucepan off the burner. Add the butter and ground black pepper. Stir until melted and incorporated. Next, add the cream and stir to combine. Finally, add feta and stir into the polenta.
At this point, the polenta is ready. Taste to see if the seasoning is right. As previously mentioned, some brands of feta will be less salty or more salty than others. Adjust the seasoning if needed and it is ready to serve.
Lord Byron’s Notes
- A heavy-bottomed pot is great for polenta. Not only does it hold and distribute the heat more consistently, but it will also help prevent food from burning because of the thick layer between the burner and the actual food. My go-to heavy-bottomed Dutch Ovens are either Le Creuset or Staub.
- If you’re new to cooking in a Dutch oven, keep in mind that they can get really hot. That is why it is important to keep the polenta moving. It will prevent it from sticking to the bottom and burning.
- If you want a creamier polenta, add more cream to the dish. Alternatively, if you want a really thick polenta, leave out the cream.
- The feta cheese can be switched out for another cheese. Feel free to use grated cheddar, mozzarella, or even a spicy cheese like a habanero cheddar – yum! Keep in mind that really melty cheese will change the consistency and will once again require that you taste for seasoning before serving.
- You can make this recipe ahead of time! Once cooked, allow to fully cool. Transfer to a food-safe container with a lid and refrigerate. When ready to reheat, transfer to a saucepan with 2-3 tablespoons of milk or cream. Over low heat, warm through, stirring often.
In my opinion, Peppery Creamy Polenta doesn’t need anything but a spoon! I absolutely love this stuff! However, not everyone is like me and not everyone will feel like making a meal out of what some people consider porridge! I think I was watching an episode of Martha Stewart years ago and she was preparing grits or polenta. This was pre-jailbird Martha. She said something about polenta being a bed for a main like beef or pork.
Martha is no doubt the Queen of the kitchen, so this Lord is going to take heed! I served my beef ribs on top of the polenta. If you click here, you can see how the sauce from the ribs pools on top of the polenta. Oh, wow, that was a tremendously delicious meal! Think of polenta as a very textured, slightly salty mashed potato. Now, what do you like to serve onto your mashed? Try the polenta instead of the potato next time. You won’t regret it!
Do You Like This Recipe?
You should consider trying these other delicious recipes too!
Peppery Creamy Polenta
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups polenta
- 1/4 cup salted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbles
- Start by adding six cups of water to a large saucepan and over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Using a whisk to stir the polenta into the water, slowly add three cups of polenta. Keep it moving so that you are not left with clumps.
- Reduce to simmer immediately. Continuing to stir, simmer the polenta for 20 minutes.
- Once done, turn off the heat and move the saucepan off the burner.
- Add the butter and ground black pepper. Stir until melted and incorporated.
- Next, add the cream and stir to combine.
- Finally, add feta and stir into the polenta.
- Taste to see if the seasoning is right. Adjust the seasoning if needed and serve.
Did you make this recipe?
Upload a photo and tag me so that I can see it!