Polenta is a versatile type of food, made from ground corn and water, and a typical dish part of traditional Northern Italian cuisine. The name originally comes from the Latin word for pearled grain (pŏllen pollĭnis, fior di farina, polvere or flour powder), and the dish, a gruel that could be made with all sorts of grains and legumes, dates to Roman times. Polenta is cheap, easy to prepare and a peasant dish, for this reason it was the typical dish for agriculture workers who required food that was high in energy. Even if it is most common in the north of Italy, today it is a popular dish throughout Italy and also abroad.
Polenta can be prepared in many ways: a ratio of three part of hot water to one part of ground cornmeal and the polenta is ready (…almost ready!). Traditionally, Italian families had their own polenta recipes, while today more convenient way of preparing polenta have been developed.
How you can prepare a delicious Polenta
First of all buy the cornmeal to make Polenta: you can choose the ground of cornmeal or buy instant polenta (which can be pre-cooked). Original ground cornmeal has a long shelf life, which means that buying large sized bags can be the more economical option. Also (and most important thing), polenta made from ground cornmeal have a better taste respecting the original way to cook it.
Here, the real rules of making polenta step by step
- Start with boiling water in a big pot, sprinkle in the polenta and whisk as it goes in to prevent lumps.
- Polenta will come to a rolling boil and will thicken quickly as the cornmeal absorbs water.
- Reduce the heat when it shows the first signs of spitting and keeping it low enough that the polenta won’t puff.
- Stir it every few minutes. After a while, polenta will start to thicken even more: pull it away from the side of the saucepan slightly as you stir.
- When polenta is smooth and thick, add some butter or olive oil to enrich it slightly
- It’s the moment to season polenta and decide how serve it
How polenta can be served
Polenta can be served as soft polenta which is perfect for a side dish or poured into a flat dish and left to cool. Polenta can be also fried and served in slices or stuffed like a cake.
It is a great food also for vegetarians and vegans, because it’s amazing served in pair with vegetables and cheese like gorgonzola and honey. Vegans can add yeast flakes, nuts and seeds which give more flavor. Finally, you can taste it simply with the traditional seasons: tomato sauce or ragù sauce. Enjoy!