Polenta has been eaten in Northern Italy for at least 3,000 years! It was initially made with spelt; once the Venetians introduced maize after the discovery of America, it became the ingredient of choice. If you have only tried the instant version, you need to upgrade to the real thing!
Polenta tastes wonderful when served with either earthy stews or flavorful cheeses and stewed mushrooms.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 6 ServingsServings
- 1⁄2 pound polenta
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring 1 quart (1 1/3 cups) of water to a boil in your copper pot. In a different saucepan or kettle, simmer about 1 quart more water.
2. When the water boils, add the corn flour in a constant light stream with one hand, the other hand simultaneously stirring with a whisk, until the flour is all incorporated. The whisk should prevent most lumps, but if you get any, remove them with a spoon.
3. As soon as the polenta begins to thicken, turn down the heat to low (if the polenta boils, it will splatter all over you), and replace your whisk with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until it gets so thick that it feels like a hard workout, then add some hot water from the other pot and keep going. It helps to have a friend or husband on hand who can take turns with you, but my nonna had Michelle Obama-like biceps and she never set foot in a gym!
4. If you keep adding a little water at regular intervals and cook on low, you only need to stir every couple of minutes. The polenta will be ready after about one hour, when it’s creamy and starts “pulling away” from the pot when you run your wooden spoon across the bottom.
Instant polenta: Even in Italy, partially pre-cooked ‘instant’ polenta, sometimes called polenta lampo or ‘lightning polenta,’ which can be eaten after only 5-10 minutes of simmering, is quite popular. Of course, it goes without saying that both taste and texture suffer when compared to the real thing.
Polenta is traditionally served heaped onto a large wooden board. Make a shallow hole in the center to hold the sauce that will accompany it. If you made extra polenta, spread it while still warm on a cookie sheet or marble board in a 1/2- to 1-inch layer. Allow it to cool and harden, then cut it into squares which can then be fried or grilled or layered with other ingredients such as meat sauce, or mushroom and cheeses, to make a baked casserole.