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Slow-Cooker Polenta with Spinach, Parmesan, and Pancetta

Slowcooker polenta with spinach and pancetta
Debbie Koenig
Cook Time:
7 hrs
Prep Time:
15 mins

Chef notes

The thought of making polenta conjures up images of Italian nonnas standing over a hot stove, stirring pots of the thick, bubbling cornmeal mixture until tender and creamy. It’s a nice thought, but on a weekday, we don’t usually have the time to cook polenta. We have some good news for you — this slow-cooker polenta is as rich and creamy as a traditional stovetop version but with little to no effort. 

Usually, you have to stir polenta consistently to keep it from getting clumpy and sticking to the bottom of the pot (and if you’re not using quick-cooking polenta, this can take about an hour). But with this recipe, the slow-cooker pretty much takes stirring out of the equation. You only have to stir it twice — once before you start the slow-cooker and again just before you serve it. Just add cornmeal, water and a bit of salt to the bowl of the slow-cooker and let it do its thing for about eight hours. 

As simple as making this polenta is, the flavors that accompany it are anything but. Frozen, chopped spinach and freshly grated Parmesan cheese are stirred into the mixture once it’s done cooking, leaving the greens tender and wilted and the cheese nice and melty. Just before serving, we like to fry up some diced pancetta to sprinkle over each bowl. In the spirit of saving time, you can buy pre-chopped pancetta (or bacon) instead of slicing your own. That crispy pancetta and another sprinkle of cheese is all that you need to make this polenta the perfect side dish.

Get Ingredients: If you don’t have everything you need on hand, you can easily purchase all of the ingredients (just click the orange button below that says ‘Get Ingredients’). You can pick and choose exactly what ingredients you need based on what’s in your pantry and they’ll be on your doorstep before you know it.


  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups uncooked polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
  • 9 cups water
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 ounces frozen chopped spinach (frozen or thawed)
  • cups grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
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Coat a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add the polenta, water, and salt and whisk together well. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours.


Once cooked, whisk again to break up any lumps, and if you’d like a creamier consistency, whisk in 1/2 cup boiling water. Add the spinach and grated Parmesan. Cover and set on warm while you prepare the pancetta.


In a medium skillet set over medium heat, add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels.


Spoon the polenta into bowls and top each portion with some pancetta and additional Parmesan.