- Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the salt. While whisking gently and continuously, pour the polenta into the boiling water in a steady stream.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often until polenta starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose.
- Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 5 to 6 minutes making sure to scrape the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan. Polenta is done when the texture is creamy and the individual grains are tender.
- Turn off heat and stir the butter and cheese into the polenta, if using. Serve immediately, or cover the pan to keep it warm before serving.
Leftover Polenta: Polenta will solidify as it cools. To make it creamy again, warm it with a little broth, milk, or water, and stir vigorously. Leftover polenta can also be sliced or cubed and baked into polenta chips.