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Maple-Cinnamon Polenta

January 18, 2012

This dish, born of a cold winter’s morning, a hungry child, and a mostly empty cupboard, has become a favorite in my house: creamy breakfast polenta with maple syrup and cinnamon.


I grew up eating polenta. My grandparents were from country towns outside of Genoa and our family ate pots of humble cornmeal mush long before it was a fashionable staple of “Northern Italian” restaurants. The next day, we’d slice it up, pan-fry it, and serve it with maple syrup.

On a recent morning, I didn’t have any pre-made polenta to serve, but I did have some “artisan” quick-cook polenta—funny, as instant polenta is considered kind of déclassé among foodies—purchased at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. So I made it fresh, using scalded milk as the liquid instead of the usual water or stock. I stirred in some maple syrup, then poured more over the top, along with a bit of milk and a dash of cinnamon. It was fast, delicious, and totally comforting—a great way to get the day started quickly and well.

Breakfast Polenta with Maple and Cinnamon

Total time: 10 minutes; hands-on time: 10 minutes

In addition to the syrup and cinnamon, you can add just about any topping here: dried fruit, banana, nuts, cream, fruit butter. Consider the polenta a blank canvas and have fun.

3 cups milk, plus more for serving

1 cup quick-cook or instant polenta (look for it in the International aisle of the market)

3 tablespoons maple syrup, plus more for serving

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring milk just to the simmering point. Add polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Add maple syrup and salt and continue to whisk until polenta thickens noticeably, 1 to 3 minutes. Serve with maple syrup, a little milk, and a dash of cinnamon. Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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