Italian Polenta

Posted on September 7, 2011

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What is Polenta?  It is rough ground cornmeal.  There are many ways to use polenta.  I can be cooked to a mashed potato like consistency and is a wonderful accompniment to any kind of Italian romato sauce.   I head on a cooking show once that is is common in Italian families to pour the cooked polenta directly on the family table, our the sauce over the top, and hand everyone forks.

Maybe you don’t want to serve polenta Italian family style, but you can stll enjoy this deliciouus side dish.

You can also cook the polenta until it is a little firmer, pour it into bread pans, and stick in the fridge.  The next day you will have polenta loaves that you can slice and grill and serve with different kinds of sauces, or, depending on how you seasoned it, you can dredge it in flour and pan fry it in a bit of butter and serve with maple syrup or tomato gravy for breakfast.  For this reason I find polenta the ultimate in comfort food.  My family even likes it cooked until the mashed potato stage and served in bowls with honey and butter for breakfast, like oatmeal.  Try experimenting with this diverse grain!

Here is a recipe for Classica polenta.  Later, I will introduce you to a faster, cheater version of polenta.  If you want to make it for breakfast, just make it without the savory ingredients.

4 c. water

2 1/2 c. milk

1 1/2 tsp. garlic

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 1/2 c. polenta or course ground gornmea (the cornmeal should be gritty, not like flour)

2 T. butter

1/4 c. Parmesan

Combine the water, milk, garlic, bay leaf, salt, & pepper in a heavy bottomed pot.  Bring to a boil.  With your fingers gradually stream in the polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps.  Once the polenta in incorporated, reduce the heat to low and keep an eye on it.  It will take 30-40 minutes until it is ready.  Stir often with a wooden spoon.  It may start to stick on the bottom as it gets thicker.  I have never found it to be a problem except sometimes I need to  soak the pan for cleanup.  The polenta should be smooth and pull away from the sides of the pan.  When you taste it, it should be like a cooked grain, not taste like uncooked flour.  You  know you are cooking polenta correctly if your arm is sore from stirring!  Once it is to the consistency you like, take off the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan.  Serve immediately with yummy sauce.  If you want if eat it later, pour into cake pans or loaf pans that have been greased.  Cover with saran wrap, and keep in the fridge overnight.  The next morning you can slice it, dredge in flour, and cook in a skillet and serve with breakfast gravy.  If you have omitted the Italian spices, then serve with fruit and syrup.  Delicious and versatile!

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