An unlined copper pot is the traditional utensil for making polenta. You can put a decent amount of heat under it without fear of damage, and it will cook your polenta quickly, and leave you a treat of crispy crust that you can scrape from the inside of the pot.
Corn was easier and more productive to grow in the poor man’s back yard field than wheat, and was thus used as a substitute for bread and pasta in the traditional kitchens.
It draws its flavor primarily from the foods served with it, and is used for everything from appetizers to desserts. However there are also many recipes available for various additives, fillings, and ways of serving polenta, so do explore and enjoy.
Basic Polenta Recipes
1 cup coarse corn meal
2 cups water – or a mixture of water, chicken broth, white wine, or any flavoring such as seasoning packets
· Bring water to a boil in a ten inch skillet, preferably non-stick.
· Add corn meal and stir until all liquid is absorbed.
· Smooth out with the back of a spoon, lower the heat, and cook for about a half hour.
· When the edges pull away from the side of the pan, shake the skillet. If the Polenta moves, it is cooked.
· Invert a plate or wooden board over the top of the skillet and turn it over.
· With a knife, or a piece of thread, cut into wedges and top with Tomato Sauce and Cheese.
· At the beginning, sauté a small onion in a little olive oil, then add the water, etc.
· Also, some leftover vegetables or bits of meat, sausage, etc. may be added just before the cornmeal.
Polenta for 8:
3.5 liters water (or use even portions of water and milk)
1 kg cornmeal (medium or coarse)
Handful of coarse salt
Use an unlined copper pot to boil the water.
Add the salt to the boiling water.
Slowly add the cornmeal while stirring with a wood spoon or spatula.
Cook 55-60 minutes over medium/high heat, stirring frequently and in the same circular direction.
Once cooked, pour on a wooden board, and cut slices using a string or a wood knife.
Polenta Concia (Polenta Grassa) for 6-8:
3 liters water
600-700 g cornmeal (medium or coarse)
300 g Fontina cheese, cubed
150 g butter, cubed
Boil the water and add the salt.
Gradually add the cornmeal while stirring with a wood spoon or spatula.
Cook 45-50 minutes, stirring frequently and in the same circular direction.
Add the cheese and butter.
Cook 5-10 more minutes, stirring frequently, until well blended.
It won’t be firm enough to put on a board, so place it in a serving dish, and optionally pour 100 g of melted or browned butter on top.
From Italian Food and Folklore
by our friend Louise Cianfero Simpson
When Columbus came to America, he found a vegetable he’d never seen before: corn. The Indians called it mahiz. When Columbus wrote about corn in his journals, he called it “maize”.
Northern Italians ground the maize into cornmeal. Polenta used to be a peasant dish. Northern Italians were even called “polenta eaters”. Polenta, like pasta, lends itself to a variety of dishes.
3 cups boiling water
1 cup coarse cornmeal
10″ heavy skillet
1. Bring the water to a boil in the skillet.
2. Sprinkle the cornmeal in the skillet.
3. If any lumps appear, press them into the side of the skillet. Keep stirring.
4. When there are no more lumps, lower the heat to lowest heat possible.
5. Let the mixture cook for about half an hour.
6. The polenta will pull away from the side of the pan; shake it. If it moves, it’s done.
7. Put a large plate over the skillet and turn the pan over. You will have a round loaf of polenta.
8. Traditionally, polenta is cut with a thin string.
9. It can be cut into wedges and served with a marinara sauce and Locatelli cheese or fried.
Once you’ve ade your polenta, you can serve it a variety of ways. One way is to slice it, saute it in olive oil and season it with Italian parsley and fresh sage. One of my favorites is to deep fry the polenta and serve it with a red sauce and sausage.
Fried Polenta with Porcini Sauce and Sausage
1. Cut the cooked polenta in 1/2″ slices.
2. Put enough olive oil in a pan to brown the polenta on both sides. Remove, drain.
3. Put the dried mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water, put aside.
4. Cut the sausage in 1/2″ pieces, fry until well done. Put aside.
4. In another pan, smash the garlic cloves, cook them until browned and discard. Cook the onions in the olive oil until transparent.
5. Add the white wine and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
6. Remove the mushrooms from the water. Put liquid through a sieve and reserve liquid.
7. Over a low flame, mix the reserved porcini liquid with one can of Italian tomato paste. Stir until smooth.
8. Pour onion/wine mixture into tomato liquid and add remaining mushrooms.
9. Cook for about 15 minutes until the liquid has been reduced. The mixture should not be runny. Cook until it has some thickness.
10. Pour the mixture over the browned polenta pieces. Serve immediately.
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for deep frying
1. Place chicken stock, butter, chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper into a large pot. (Use a pot that will also fit in your oven for a later step.)
2. Boil and then slowly sprinkle in the coarse cornmeal while stirring, until the mixture is so thick that the spoon will stand up in it.
3. Remove from the heat, use a spatula to mound the polenta away from the sides and into the middle, and put the pot in your oven.
4. Bake in the oven at 400°F for 30 minutes.
5. Spread the polenta evenly onto a greased cookie sheet, and refrigerate.
6. After it sets, cut into small squares and then small triangles. Take out as needed, using 4 to 6 triangles per portion.
7. Dust triangles in flour and deep fry until they are golden brown.
8. When the polenta triangles become golden brown, transfer them to the dinner plates.
9. Use the polenta triangles like you would use bread, or add your favorite sauce to them.
2 qts water
1/2 lb coarse cornmeal
Parmigiano cheese, grated
1. Boil water and salt it.
2. Gradually add the cornmeal, mixing continually.
3. Cook for 30 minutes, until very thick.
4. Transfer it to a wooden board, and allow it to cool.
5. Cut 1/2″ wide slices.
6. In a baking dish, alternate polenta slices, sauce, and Parmigiano.
7. Repeat, ending with cheese and melted butter.
8. Bake in a 350°F oven.
Fried Polenta Sweet Treats
1. Cut the polenta into 1″ cubes.
2. Fry the cubes in butter.
3. Place the fried cubes on paper towels to blot excess butter.
4. Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
5. Serve while hot.
Cooking of Polenta on a Fogolar, a traditional fire oven (hearth) in Friuli / Italy / EU from Wikipedia.
The Polenta oil on canvas by Pietro Longhi.
Polenta – Fat of the Land by Ewan Munro.
Polenta da Lugano 2006 by Cassinam.