comfort food: farinata, a polenta delight

WE CALL IT MUSH, my friend Marco and I do, but not in any disparaging way. When the night’s headed into the 20s and you’ve been out in the 40s raking all day (or it’s closer to zero and you’ve been shoveling snow), what you want is just that: stick-to-your-ribs warmth; comfort served in a big bowl, using a big spoon. More molten than soupy, farinata is pure peasant food–nothing more than cornmeal, water, and some kale or cabbage, brought to life with garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.


USE KALE, cabbage or another green if you prefer, to make this Italian-style porridge that’s quick, filling and perfect for those of us who consider such things as soupy polenta to be comfort food—and also love garlic. (Count me in on both scores.) This recipe was inspired by something a friend scribbled down from the old public-television show “Cucina Amore.”

Other references call this farinata–the word just translates as porridge or gruel–Farinata di Cavolo Nero (or Farinata with Tuscan Kale). To confuse things, lately the term farinata is often used to refer to a thin, unleavened savory pancake of chickpea flour (also called a socca)…but here we’re in the cornmeal gruel business.


  • ½ lb. kale or cabbage or mix
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth (if the broth is salted, or you like a lot of Parmesan, adjust salt below)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ cup polenta (cornmeal); organic recommended
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves minced or grated garlic, or to taste
  • ¼ to ½ cup olive oil (with extra for garnish)


Wash and chop the greens; I use a coarse chiffonade cut (above photo), removing the toughest stem bits first.

Meantime, bring salted water (see above note) or stock to a rolling boil.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer the greens until barely tender, just a few minutes, in the water or stock.

Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.

Cook on simmer until creamy, 10-30 minutes (depending on the type of cornmeal you use) or until done.

Fold in the garlic, cheese and the oil; remove from heat.

Serve immediately in bowls garnished with more oil and pepper. Serves three (or two with seconds). When eating alone, I halve the recipe, and it’s a heaping portion and then some.

For me, a big bowlful is a meal–perhaps with a salad. For guests who eat meat? Grilled Italian-style sausages would make a perfect side dish.

    1. Ann says:

      But not as nutritious. Cut down, but not out as these fats will facilitate your body absorbing all the benefits of kale and garlic. Bon Appetit!

  1. Anne E, Hock says:

    Hi Margaret! Oooh La La! Just delicious! I love polenta. Thanks for
    this recipie. I also have a good Ratatuie recipie. Was that yours? No separate cooking….just add veggies one at a time. We single girls do not
    want to take all night to cook dinner!. I also make a good soup with
    butternut squash. Peel, cook and use the blender with herbs, garlic
    and a bit of milk. Best from Anne in Maryland.

    1. margaret says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Anne. No, not my ratatouille (but sounds tasty and not fussy). I love making Butternut soup, too — so easy — though I use some onion, garlic, Indian spices and coconut milk.

  2. Jacqueline Totsch says:

    Farinata is fabulous! Tried for the first time with a bag of chopped “Power greens” (Napa cabbage, shaved Brussels sprouts, kale I think) I had on hand from Trader Joe’s and was as delicious, fast, and comforting as promised. Thank you for a new favorite!

  3. Cynthia Donahey says:

    you can make this thick enough to form and then slice to fry. another kind of mush. tomato sauce instead of syrup

  4. Beverly says:

    This looks really good, something I’ll have for a hearty breakfast – maybe with an egg on top.
    (P.S. Thanks for the GBBC reminder. That was a fast year. Time flew and I wasn’t even having much fun!)

  5. Doty Henry says:

    I and siblings grew up eating farina every morning with dried fruit before school. We walked in snow, up to our waist most morning. PA has a lot of winter snow, those were the days. I still eat it to this day, will try this recipe. What a wonderful recipe and memory, thank you.

  6. Cathryn Kasper says:

    This is a great recipe!-especially when made with a fantastic rustic Abkenaki polenta , available (usually in summer) from an organic Oregon grower: Lonesome Whistle Farm. They sell at local farmers’ markets and also mail order. I hope you’ll try it – you’ll love it!!

  7. laura says:

    Sorry, but ten minutes are not enough for the farinata, unless you use pre-cooked cornmeal. Moreover, the real “farinata” needs the broth of cooking of borlotti beans together with the past beans
    Trust me, I am from Pisa, Tuscany :)

    1. margaret says:

      Thanks, Laura. A lot of the popular brands people use cook faster, but you are right – the one I used now is about 20 minutes and some are even longer. Adjusted!

  8. Jayne says:

    Just in time, because the collard greens and cabbage continue to beg to be harvested in my Georgia farm plot! Cole slaw is not appreciated as the side effects of Storm Izzy swirl past…hot mush sounds so much better. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. margaret says:

      It’s not firm like a lot of polenta dishes, but if you prefer a little thicker go for it. When I make regular polenta I use 1 cup for 4 cups of water by comparison, but that would be stiffer and not the intended just-thicker-than-soup consistency.

  9. Judy Mayes says:

    Margaret, I copied over to my computer your polenta cornmeal and kale soup recipe.

    It is perfect for lunch with a friend when we meet every month or so. She is adventurous enough to try out this recipe with me.

    My husband not so much. Although if I add sausage to the mix, he might be interested since he also likes kale.

    Thank you for publishing it. I will let you know how the recipe is received.
    Judy Mayes

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