Romanian Corn Grits with Sour Cream and Cheese (Mamalige)

Recipe contributed by Elizabeth Schwartz; photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  4 servings
Prep Time:  5 minutes Cook Time:  15 minutes

Romanian Corn Grits with Sour Cream and Cheese (Mamalige)

Elizabeth Schwartz, cookbook author and klezmer musician, created this version of the classic Romanian polenta. It is traditionally served with tangy sour cream and briny Brinze cheese, the sheep’s milk equivalent to feta cheese.


2 cups water

¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ cup corn grits (polenta)*

¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste

½ cup sour cream or more, for garnish

½ cup crumbled fresh feta or brinze cheese (2.4 ounces, 68 grams), or more for garnish


  1. Pour water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add salt and gradually stir in the cornmeal. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, until mixture is thick and smooth, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add pepper and taste for seasoning.
  4. Spray the inside of a serving bowl or individual ramekins with nonstick spray. Spoon in the grits. Smooth and cool to room temperature.
  5. Unmold onto a plate and garnish with sour cream and crumbled cheese.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Make sure the corn grits are labelled gluten free.

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Thanks SO much for describing/deciphering this marvelous dish, which I heard of over 50 years ago, thanks to the song “Rumania, Rumania.”
I’d always assumed that ‘mamalige’ was a descriptive that had something to do with Mama or mothers (as in ‘mamaloshen,’ for example).
So much for erroneous folk/fake “etymology”! :->

deirdre - November 25, 2016