Navigate to Food section


March 12, 2021
Justin CovingtonJustin Covington

Mamaliga, the national dish of Romania, has long been beloved by all Romanians—including Jews. Aaron Lebedeff’s famous Yiddish song “Roumania, Roumania” specifically mentions the dish. Evidently, when a Jewish Romanian met someone who he or she thought was Jewish, they would say in Yiddish, “Es mamaliga licht in punem,” meaning: When you eat mamaliga, it shows in your face.

This porridge, made from cornmeal, is often served with sour cream, diced raw onions, and feta cheese. Dairy restaurants, like Ratner’s in New York, served it, especially at the forthcoming holiday of Shavuot.

Featured in: This Porridge Is Just Right—for Shavuot

Great for: Shavuot

Recipe by: Joan Nathan and Adam Tihany


  • 6shallots, diced
  • ½stick plus 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 10ounces fresh spinach
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½cups coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 1cup feta cheese, broken into small pieces
  • 1cup ricotta cheese
  • 1cup sour cream or yogurt


  • Step 1

    Saute the shallots in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the spinach little by little on top and saute until withered but still bright green. Set aside.

  • Step 2

    Pour 5 cups of water into a heavy saucepan and bring to a rapid boil. Add salt and then sprinkle on the cornmeal very slowly, stirring constantly with a long wooden spoon. Then reduce the heat to medium and continue stirring until the cornmeal is very thick and firm, about 15 minutes. When the cornmeal forms a ball and no longer sticks to the side of the pan but comes away cleanly from the side, spoon one third of it into a 9 by 9 casserole. Cover with the spinach, then melt the remaining butter and pour over the spinach.

  • Step 3

    Cover with another layer of the polenta, then spoon on the feta and the ricotta cheese.

  • Step 4

    Cover with the remaining polenta, smoothing down. You can serve as is or refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • Step 5

    When ready to serve preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes or until warm. Then serve with sour cream or yogurt on the side.