Polenta Taragna – An Enriched Polenta from the Italian Mountains

In previous posts, we talked about Cucina Povera, the cuisine of the poor, now becoming “fashionable” in high-end restaurants. This is the case also for polenta – one of the simplest dishes ever conceived.

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Now traditionally made with cornmeal, different types of polenta have been feeding the masses since Roman times, well before the discovery of the Americas and the subsequent introduction of corn into Europe. Earlier polentas were made with millet, rye, spelt, barley, chickpeas, chestnuts or wheat flours.

Polenta cooker at a town fair
Polenta cooker at a town fair

In Italy, polenta is a relatively common accompaniment to stews, braised dishes, and fried fish, often as an alternative to bread. In some parts of northern Italy, polenta becomes a more involved dish thanks to the use of different grains and to the addition of cheeses, milk, butter. This recipe describes one of the most renowned polenta spin-offs: Polenta Taragna.

Polenta Taragna is typical of Valtellina as well as of the valleys of Bergamo and Brescia. Its most characteristic trait is its dark color, due to the use of buckwheat flour (mixed with cornmeal). Polenta Taragna can also be recognized from other polenta-based dishes for containing substantial amounts of butter and cheese, mixed in right before the dish is served. The cheeses used in this preparation vary from region to region, but they’re commonly semi-fat, medium-ripened cow-milk cheeses (e.g.: Valtellina Casera, Bitto, Branzi, or Fontina). Polenta Taragna is served as a main course, or to accompany cold cuts and Italian pickles.

Polenta Taragna

Yield: 2 servings (as a main)

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Polenta Taragna


  • 1 liter of water
  • 120 g buckwheat flour
  • 80 g cornmeal (fig. a)
  • 75 g unsalted butter, cubed (fig. b)
  • 250 g semi-fat cheese, cubed (e.g.: Fontina) (fig. c)
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Bring the water to a boil in the traditional copper cauldron or in a heavy-bottomed, stainless steel saucepan.
  2. Slowly add the flours, while stirring constantly, until a lump-free mixture is obtained (figs. 1, 2, 3).
  3. Cook at medium-low heat for 50-60 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the mix from sticking to the pot.
  4. When the polenta is almost ready, add the butter and allow it to melt (fig. 4).
  5. Finally, turn off the heat and add the cheese (fig. 5).
  6. Keep stirring until the cheese has partially melted (fig. 6).
  7. Serve in earthenware or ceramic bowls, or on a cutting board if used as a side.

23 thoughts on “Polenta Taragna – An Enriched Polenta from the Italian Mountains”

  1. Thanks Tiffany and Nami! It does taste delicious, the buckwheat flour brings in some kind of nuttiness. Happy New Year to you Nami – likewise with yours!

  2. It is really surprising to know that how polenta evolved from a poor man's food to finding its mention in expensive restaurant menu. Loved reading this post! The dish looks mouth-watering too!

  3. I make polenta taragna often, from locally grown and milled ingredients. I don't have access to the cheese they use in Valtellina, but I don't complain. I had never seen a polenta cooker like the one in the photo.

  4. Giulietta, thanks and Happy New Year to you. I agree, it's very much comfort food.

    Purabi, thanks for your comment – I'm glad you found the post interesting.

    Simona, thanks for your contribution! I'd love to see your Taragna.

  5. Being from bergamo I make polenta very often, but never polenta taragna. I think I should correct this! it would be perfect for a meal with friends!

    Ah e buon anno!

  6. I love polenta taragna, its nutty flavor and all that butter and cheese. Perfect for a cold winter's night by the fire…

  7. Thank you for posting this! I only recently found this recipe. Someone had asked for a "polenta di ragno" recipe on a site that hasn't had activity in years. Yes, you can laugh, as I believe that ragno means spider in Italian. Nevertheless, the owner of the website, couldn't answer the question, so I decided I would try to answer it. My answer was close, but I never could find the actual name of the recipe. I should have gone to the Italian Celiac Organization long ago. They list Polenta Taragan as not safe for Celiacs. I knew I hit jackpot! I put the name in google, and found you.
    Thanks again for posting this recipe!

    1. Thanks Kytriya for sharing your interesting story on how you got here! I'm glad you found your answer – pretty amazing considering that you started from "polenta di ragno" (very funny indeed!) Thanks again and best of luck for your project!

  8. Grazie mille per la ricetta! My mom and I delight in correcting Italian cuisine and language stereotypes. When we weren't sure what ratio of water to polenta taragna to use, we stumbled upon your site. It's delightful!

    1. Thanks Karen! Glad I could help 🙂 Looks like we're on the same side too 🙂 Please let me know if you have any suggestions. Bye and thanks for stopping by!

  9. I just made this and it’s delicious! One point – the recipe mentions 1/2 teaspoon salt, but doesn’t say when to add it. I did so right at the beginning.

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