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 to insure it’s GMO-free
  • 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, about 10 minutes.

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. narf7 says:

    I have been looking for savoury porridge ideas for ages now. Aside from congee this one looks delicious and perfect for winter to break up the sweetness of oatmeal. Thankyou for this wonderful hearty idea for a start to a day of gardening :). Nothing like a hearty start to keep you going :)

  2. Linda says:

    This is so good. I saw your description and the photo and had to run to the store, buy the ingredients and cook it. I never did that before. I’ve seen many recipes that looked good but never followed through on them. This one put a spell on me.

  3. Patricia N. says:

    Looks delicious, but I will try it with collard greens. Hubby has gout and kale is one of the offending foods for him. :(

  4. Ann F. says:

    I have been making oatmeal with spinach and Parmesan cheese with a little olive oil for a few years. I am a Yankee living in the south and since grits are so available I started using grits this year, I grate whatever cheese is available and I always make my grits or oatmeal with milk. Most people tell me I’m weird when I tell them I have oatmeal or grits with spinach, And here it is in print. I’m not weird I’m ahead of the pack!!

  5. Maureen Russell says:

    I made this the other night and it was delicious. My husband like but wondered where the meat was?? This is perfect for cool weather!

  6. Eileen says:

    I assume these are instant grits as they cook in 10 minutes (scenes from “My Cousin Vinny are ringing in my head : ). This looks amazing. Will be making it this weekend.

  7. Eileen says:

    Thank you Margaret. I love all of Bob’s products and will pick up his organic cornmeal to make this dish. Can’t wait. The picture is making me drool. One good thing about this time of year is the comfort food recipes all come out : )

  8. Miriam says:

    I made this last night with Swiss Chard and only one clove of garlic and it was yummy! Real cold weather, comfort food. Also topped with some chicken sausage! Delish! Tks for the recipe.

  9. Barb says:

    Excellent…..but a little more detail on how to avoid lumps in the corn meal would be useful for those of us who don’t make polenta regularly. Would it help to bring the temp of the stock up a little higher after the greens are softened?

  10. Heather says:

    Tasty! I made it with purple cabbage and used a cup of italian cheese blend…my little boys has dubbed it “purple soup”. Thanks for the recipe.

  11. When you mentioned comfort food in the recipe description, i had to act, Had a few tuscan kale plants in the garden that had survived the cabbage worm onslaught. Right now the polenta is simmering on the stove, waiting for the inclusion of my favorite ingredients, parmesan, olive oil and garlic, to be stirred in. the salad is made. The ciabatta is warming in the oven. In about 5 minutes it will be time to feast!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Katherine. Yes! YUM. The original recipe calls for “black” or Tuscan kale, so you are right on.

      Hi, Heather. Love the idea of “purple soup”. I have one very dark purple kale plant still standing…I think I now know its fate!

      How are you, Shery? Yes, chard would be good. I have done that when I had no kale. Cabbage is the other original “green” that is used. Nice to see you all.

  12. Eileen says:

    I made this on Friday and I’m still singing its praises two days later. An amazing dish. Will be making it again and again and again. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be doing the same. Too good not to share with friends!

    1. margaret says:

      I’d say try it, Carole. I can’t imagine it will be anything but delicious. Remember that spinach cooks almost instantly by comparison to, say, kale, so I’d put it in right at the last minute.

  13. Eileen J says:

    I absolutely love polenta, especially the organic kind available at my local food coop. This sounds like a wonderful way to serve it and I will try it soon. I am always looking for ways to sneak a few greens into my family. I think any leftovers, warmed by heating up wedges in a little more olive oil, would be terrific topped with a simple sauce of tomatoes sauteed in garlic and olive oil and an herb or two. Thanks Margaret!

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