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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Recipe: Mămăligă

Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Moldova
30 minutes


Moldovan traditional foods are complex, nuanced, and delicious. Stuffed meats and vegetables, as well as cabbage rolls, are integral to Moldovan cuisine. The best-known dish is sarmale, called also by the diminutive sărmălute (mincemeat wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves) with mămăligă (polenta).


Materials & Procedures


  1. 1 qt. water
  2. 1-2 cups corn meal
  3. 2 tsp. salt


  1. Boil water and salt in a pot. When water is boiling, gradually add corn meal while stirring the mixture with a whisk. Stop adding corn meal when the mixture is considerably thick, though still liquid.
  2. Continue to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, with caution, since the mixture bubbles up and splatters hot polenta around.
  3. Remove from the heat and serve hot with your favorite dish.
  4. Mămăliga is often served with sour cream and cheese on the side ( mămăligă cu brânză şi smântână ) or crushed in a bowl of hot milk ( mămăligă cu lapte ). Sometimes slices of mămăligă are pan-fried in oil or in lard, the result being a sort of corn pone.


Mămăligă is a dish made out of yellow maize, and is traditional to Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. It is better known to the rest of the world in its Italian form—polenta .

Historically a peasant food, it was often used as a substitute for bread or even as a staple food in the poor rural areas. However, in the last decades it has emerged as an upscale dish available in the finest restaurants.

Traditionally, mămăliga is cooked by boiling water, salt, and cornmeal in a special-shaped cast iron pot called a ceaun . When cooked peasant-style and used as a bread substitute, mămăliga is supposed to be much thicker than the regular Italian polenta to the point that it can be cut in slices, like bread. When cooked for other purposes, mămăliga can be much softer, sometimes almost to the consistency of porridge. Because mămăliga sticks to metal surfaces, it can be cut with a string into slices, and is eaten by holding it with the hand, just like bread would be. 

Since mămăliga can be used as an alternate for bread in many Moldovan dishes, there are quite a few which are either based on mămăligă, or include it as an ingredient or side dish. 

About the Author

Carolina Axenti

This recipe was submitted to World Wise Schools by Carolina Axenti, Internal Resources Center Coordinator, Peace Corps/Moldova.

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