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Maple-Cinnamon Polenta | The Breakfast of Champions

Maple-Cinnamon Polenta | The Breakfast of Champions
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Maple-Cinnamon Polenta
Photo/Art by Amy Traverso
Maple-Cinnamon Polenta

In the ongoing effort to keep my three-year-old son fed, I’ve come up with endless variations on macaroni and cheese and thirty different broccoli preparations. But this dish, born of a cold winter’s morning, a hungry boy, and a mostly empty cupboard, is my favorite: 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, though I’ve dropped that game since Max as born—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.

Update: Food/garden writer (and former Yankee editor)  Leslie Land reminded me of how similar breakfast polenta is to Hasty Pudding, a traditional British mush made with oats or other cereal grains, which  morphed into a cornmeal dish here in New England. Like my polenta, it was often made with milk and sweetened with either molasses or, later, maple syrup.

Stirring the polenta

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

Amy Traverso


Amy Traverso


Senior lifestyle editor Amy Traverso oversees Yankee's Food and Home & Garden departments and contributes articles to the magazine. Amy book, The Apple Lover's Cookbook (W.W. Norton), won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award for the category American. Follow !
Updated Thursday, January 12th, 2012

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One Response to Maple-Cinnamon Polenta | The Breakfast of Champions

  1. cucee sprouts April 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Gotto tell you, I am all into breakfast polenta. I have made it 3 times in the last week. Here is my recipe with pictures

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