Polenta is one of the basics of Italian cooking. It can be used as an appetizer, a main dish or a side. The core components of polenta are cornmeal and water and the possibilities are broad. Polenta, when served warm, can be on its own with butter and cheese, like parmesan or even creamy gorganzola.
Polenta is wonderfully adaptable to most dishes that are braised, roasted or stewed as it incorporates the flavors of the dish. When let to cool after cooking, polenta can then be sliced into triangles or squares for grilling, or even into sticks for gently frying. Can also be re-baked with cheese or butter.
What Is Polenta?
Polenta comes from Italy. It is a boiled cornmeal dish that was historically prepared with different types of grains. Polenta can be served as hot porridge or made into a solid loaf that can be further grilled, fried, or baked. The variety of grain or cereal can be buckwheat, yellow corn, or a mix of two. A coarse grind makes a firm and thick polenta, whereas, you can use a finer grind to make a smooth and creamy polenta.
Polenta is a staple of the cuisines of Switzerland, Northern Italy, and the Balkans. In the earlier times, it was a traditional dish of the lower classes.
Easy Polenta Recipe
We recommend pairing Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti DOCG with this polenta recipe.
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups of Italian course-ground or stone-ground polenta
1 tsp salt
Bring water to a boil in a large, heavy pot. Add the salt, and maintain the boiling water at about medium-high heat. Add the polenta in a very thin stream, whisking as you do to make sure there are no clumps. Once all of the polenta has been added, switch from a whisk to a heavy wooden spoon and continue to stir at the same heat. Stir continuously, making sure there is no sticking at the bottom or the sides of the pot. Cook ? and stir ? until polenta is thick and creamy, about 30 – 40 minutes, maybe longer depending on the style of polenta. The polenta should pull away from the sides of the pot easily. Taste to make sure the grains are fully cooked. Can then pour the polenta into a steel bowl or pan, let it become firm so that it is still warm, but will juggle when moved. Then turn bowl or pan over onto a platter so that the polenta is a dome or square. Cut and serve.
Variations: Butter and Cheese
Add about 1 to 2 TBSP of butter and 1/4- 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese just before polenta is completely cooked. Serve immediately
For grilling or baking
Pour polenta onto buttered baking sheet or other flat surface about 3 inches thick. Allow to cool completely. Cover and chill if planning to cut and grill or bake.
Creamy Italian Polenta
- Water – 4 Cups
- Milk – 4 Cups
- Stock – 4 Cups
- Yellow Cornmeal – 1 Cup, Medium To Coarse Ground
- Kosher Salt – 1 Tsp
- Unsalted Butter – 2 Tbsp
- Parmesan Cheese – ½ Cup, Freshly Shredded
- Whisk water, stock, milk, or combo in a large saucepan along with salt and cornmeal. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat and boil it while whisking.
- Now reduce the heat to low. The polenta should have a little steam but no bubbles. Stir the polenta after every 5 to 10 minutes and bake it for 45 to 50 minutes until tender and thick.
- Once the polenta is cooked through, add parmesan cheese and butter.
Creamy Polenta with Parmesan and Sausage
- Olive Oil – 2 Tbsp
- Italian Sausages – 4
- Cornmeal – 1 Cup, Medium-To-Coarse
- Parmesan Cheese – 1/2 To 1 Cup, Freshly Grated
- Butter – 2 Tbsp
- Black Pepper – Freshly Ground
- In a large skillet, put oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add sausages and cook for 20 minutes until browned on all sides and cooked through.
- Meanwhile, put cornmeal in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water. Mix well to make a slurry. Remove the lumps by beating the mixture. Put the pan on medium-high heat, sprinkle salt and bring it to boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking while stirring frequently. Also, add water to loosen the mixture and lump-free. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a little more water.
- Depending on the grind, the polenta should be done in 15 to 30 minutes. Add cheese and butter with salt for taste. Also, add a lot of pepper and serve with sausages.
Italian Crispy Fried Polenta Cakes
Leftover polenta can be used to make fried polenta. It is one of the popular traditional dishes in northern Italy. It is crispy and creamy on the inside and an easy gluten-free pasta substitute to serve with a vegetable or meat stew. Traditionally, it is often served with mushrooms and cheese. Also, try grilled polenta triangles with mushrooms.
- Polenta Taragna – 2 Cups
- Water – 4 Cups
- Salt – 1/2 Tbsp
- Olive Oil – 1 Tbsp
- Butter – 1 Tbsp
- Parmesan Cheese – Freshly Grated
Make The Polenta
- Fill a large pot with salted water and boil it.
- Once it has boiled, add the polenta and stir with intervals with a wooden spoon to make sure there are no lumps.
- For 50 minutes to 1 hour, stir polenta continuously until it pulls away from the edges of the pan.
- Line the foil on a large wooden base or greased pan and pour the polenta into it. You can brush a little olive oil.
- Spread it flat and evenly with a spoon.
- Wait for 1 hour to cool the polenta completely.
Frying The Polenta
- Cut the polenta into rectangular sticks.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet.
- Place the polenta patties and fry.
- Once the polenta has browned, turn it to the other side.
- Place on a serving platter and sprinkle the parmesan cheese while still warm.
Polenta – Italian Traditional Boiled Cornmeal Dish
Polenta comes from Italy and it is one of the popular traditional dishes in northern Italy. It can be used as an appetizer, side dish, or main dish. Also, it can be served as hot porridge or as a solid loaf that can be grilled, baked, or fried. To make a coarse or firm polenta, you can use coarse grinds, whereas, to make a creamy and soft polenta, you finer grinds.
To make polenta at home, you can try an easy polenta recipe with simple ingredients and procedures. Apart from easy polenta recipes, you can make sausage polenta or Italian crispy fried polenta cakes to serve at dinner. If you want to try a grilled polenta, then grilled polenta berry shortcakes can be a good option.