I feel the need to admit, that although I love
polenta now, I absolutely hated it the first time I tried it. I grew up in an Italian family, but
we never ate polenta - we were more of a meatballs and pasta crew. One holiday, my grandmother
decided to have all the grandkids try polenta, and she pulled out a tube of pre-prepared polenta
and cut us off each a little bit. It was bland, had a weird texture, and was overall just entirely
lacking in charm.
For years, I thought that's what polenta was
like. Thankfully I was reintroduced to it years later as an adult, and discovered that polenta
that was homemade and well-seasoned is actually one of Italian cuisine's loveliest side
dishes. In fact, we have used polenta in several recipes here on Easy Food & Wine. Here,
we'll highlight what polenta is, how to cook with it, and the different styles of polenta that you
What is Polenta?
is an Italian dish, made from cornmeal, that's boiled in a hot liquid into a porridge. It can then
be served right after boiling in a soft, creamy style, or it can be baked, grilled or fried after
boiling to produce different textures and styles. Although corn wasn't introduced to Italy until
after the discovery of America, polenta dates back well before the 16th century. It was originally
made with barley-meal or other starchy ingredients, but today is made almost exclusively from corn.
It can be made using either white or yellow corn, as well as from coarse- or
How to Cook Polenta
made from scratch is prepared by boiling the cornmeal in a hot liquid (water or a flavored
broth) for 30-45 minutes. The ratio of liquid to cornmeal is between 4-6 times more liquid than
corn - it will absorb all of this liquid during cooking. It requires quite a bit of attention
during cooking to ensure the appropriate low simmer is maintained. It also needs regular stirring
to avoid burning; the mixture becomes quite dense so it doesn't easily release
bubbles during boiling. Polenta also comes in an 'instant' variety that takes only 3
minutes to cook. It's good in a pinch, but doesn't have the same flavor or
Styles of Polenta: Creamy, Baked, Grilled or Fried
Creamy polenta is made just by boiling it until cooked through, while the texture is still a
bit loose. Fine-grain cornmeal works best when preparing creamy polenta. Baked, grilled
or fried styles start the same way, but the polenta is then cooked again after boiling.
In addition to changing the texture, the additional browning from these cooking techniques can
provide extra depth of flavor. To make baked polenta, the cooked, boiled polenta can be put
into a baking dish and cooked in the oven. For grilled or fried polenta, the polenta should be
allowed to set for some time after boiling so it will hold its shape better. It can then be
pan-fried, deep-fried, or grilled over open flame.
Make It Flavorful
As I learned the first time I tried polenta, it can be a bland ingredient when no additional
seasoning is added. This makes it an ideal canvas for adding flavor, or an excellent foil to meats,
vegetables, or sauces. First off, don't forget to add salt and fresh ground pepper at minimum. You
can increase the polenta's flavor by cooking it in stock, or a mix of stock and water. It also is
excellent flavored with various cheeses, which can be mixed or melted in at the end of
boiling, or can be stuffed into the polenta before baking, grilling or frying.
Easy Food & Wine Recipes with Polenta
Shrimp & Swiss
Chard with Goat Cheese-Stuffed Baked Polenta
Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Cheddar
What's your favorite way to cook polenta? Share with us at email@example.com.
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