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Moldavian Cornmeal Mush (Mamaliga)





3-1/2 cup water
Salt, to taste
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into bits
8 tbsp. (1 stick each) unsalted butter, melted, for serving


Combine the water and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal in a steady stream and whisk until the water returns to boiling. Gradually add the rest of the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook the mixture, covered, until thickened and cooked through, 10 minutes.

Add in the butter, a piece at a time, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan, about 5 minutes more.

Transfer the mamaliga to a medium size oval bowl and flatten the surface with a wet spoon. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Invert the mamaliga onto a plate and sprinkle with the melted butter. Serves 6 to 8.


Sprinkle the mamaliga with 1 cup crumbled feta cheese and bake in a 400 degrees F. oven until the feta is golden and bubbly, 10 minutes. Serve with melted butter.

Cut the mamaliga into 1/4 inch thick slices, dredge in cornmeal and fry in butter. Serve for breakfast with fried bacon.

Mix hot mamaliga with 1 1/2 cups kasseri cheese, transfer to a rectangular casserole, drizzle with 4 tablespoons melted butter that has been mixed with 3 to 4 cloves of crushed garlic, and bake in a 375 degrees F. oven until the top is browned, 12 minutes.

Place a thin slice of German ham and a thin slice of sharp cheese between two slices of mamaliga, dip in beaten egg, and fry in butter until golden.

Author's Comments

Made from stone-ground, bright orange, local cornmeal, mamaliga is an essential to Moldavian and Romanian cuisine, as rice is to the Chinese. For breakfast, it is eaten fried with a slice of bacon; at lunch, it is sprinkled with feta cheese and baked; at dinner, it is served as a base for a hearty stew; and for dessert, slices of mamaliga are topped with confectioners' sugar or jam.

Mamaliga tastes very much like the newly popular Italian polenta, although the Moldavians insist that it is far superior, especially when made with their own cornmeal. Vigorous stirring is the key to a good, smooth mamaliga, and every Moldavian housewife has a long wooden spoon for this purpose. Traditionally it has to be made in a heavy u-shaped pot but I find that molding it in an oval bowl is much easier.

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