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5 from 7 votes

Polenta in the Instant Pot (Cacio e Pepe Polenta or Polenta with sauce)

Polenta doesn't have to take a long time to make creamy and perfectly. If you have a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot, you can have smooth, tasty, polenta in well under 30 minutes. This method is for polenta to be served with marinara, pesto, or with added black pepper in Cacio e Pepe style (Cacio e Pepe literally means "cheese and pepper").
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time9 mins
Total Time19 mins
Course: Meatless Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: cacio e pepe, Instant pot, polenta
Servings: 6
Calories: 268kcal
Author: Sally Humeniuk



  • 1 cup polenta (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces Pecorino and/or Parmesan, Shredded, plus more for serving
  • 3 tbsp Fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup Pesto homemade or store bought
  • ½ cup Marinara sauce, homemade or store bought


  • Into an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, whisk the polenta, salt, pepper, and 4 cups of water. Press the Saute' button and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisk again, then seal the pressure cooker according to manufacturer's directions, with the dial turned to Sealing. Cook on high pressure for 9 minutes. 
  • While polenta is cooking, make sure to have your butter and cheese(s) ready to add to the pot. When the timer goes off at the end of the 9 minutes, release the pressure manually and carefully open the lid immediately (In other words, don't get distracted and let the polenta sit too long ;) ).
  • Using a whisk, large fork or wooden spoon, whisk the polenta until it's homogenous and creamy. Use your utensil to press any lumps against the side of the pan to smooth (there shouldn't be much, but will be a few).
  • Whisk the 3 tablespoons of butter into the polenta, then gradually add the cheese, whisking until melted. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
  • For Cacio e Pepe polenta, add A LOT more pepper to the mixture, stir and then serve in individual bowls with more pepper and shredded cheese on top.
  • For polenta to be served with marinara, pesto or both, you may skip the step to add more pepper, but I still add some.  Scoop the polenta into individual bowls, add a swirl of marinara sauce and/or pesto sauce. Top with more shredded cheese and chopped fresh basil leaves.


  1. I recommend shredding your cheese rather than grating it. If you use shredded cheese, the polenta will have a nice melty, almost stretchy cheese consistency that only adds to the creaminess of the dish. (I usually recommend shredding your own cheese but have made it with pre-shredded Parmesan before with wonderful results as well.)
  2. To ensure a successful polenta, be ready to add the butter and cheese as soon as the pressure is released from the pot. If you let it sit too long, it will start to become too firm for a creamy polenta dish.
  3. If you have leftover polenta, spread it into the bottom of a small baking or storage dish and let it set up in the fridge. When reheating for serving, cut the polenta into squares and serve it as a polenta cake on top of sauce or with sauce poured over. Alternately, you could make your polenta ahead of time and do this to the entire pot of polenta as soon as the cheese and seasonings are added.


Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 28mg | Sodium: 903mg | Potassium: 121mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 750IU | Vitamin C: 1.7mg | Calcium: 252mg | Iron: 0.7mg