Traditional Freeform Polenta with Sage and Parmesan Cheese

This is the perfect polenta to serve a rich, fatty meat such as pork belly or duck. It is served freeform on a wooden board. You can slice the polenta and serve with a cake server, or just scoop out a helping. If you serving this with a leaner cut of meat, or meal, you can lightly fry the slices in olive oil for a special twist.
Course Grain
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Author Homemade Italian Cooking with Cara


  • Special equipment: Enameled 7-quart round-bottom pan large wooden board, flat bottom wooden spoon
  • 10 cups distilled or pure spring water
  • 2 cups cornmeal consistent, fine grind (not coarse)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 -10 sage leaves torn small piece and fried in 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Bunch sage for garnish
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. In an 7 quart enameled round bottom pot, soak cornmeal in distilled water for 1-2 hours.
  2. Put the pot on the stovetop with the water and cornmeal and bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce the heat again as soon as it starts to show the first signs of spitting, keeping it low enough that the polenta won't puff, pop, and spit as it cooks. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan so nothing sticks or burns. When the mixture thickens and begins to leave the side of the pan, it is almost done. If any lumps form give a good whisk until the lumps disappear.
  5. Mix in fried sage pieces with flavored olive oil, salt, black pepper, and butter during the last 5 minutes. When done, turn off the heat and mix in freshly grated parmesan cheese. The polenta should be smooth, glossy, and soft/slightly runny. The total cooking time from the time the water boils should be about 30-45 minutes with pre-soaked polenta.
  6. Immediately pour the polenta onto a lightly oiled wooden board or platter. Let it cool for 15 minutes, and then cut into slices. Garnish with fresh sage leaves and more grated cheese.