Today I am going to talk about Italian polenta, a dish that has become a staple in Northern Italian cuisine and that is super easy to make. It is a type of cornmeal made from coarse flour. As the flour is not finely ground, polenta has a little more bite to it.
The origins of Italian polenta are rooted in ancient times. In the past centuries, different kinds of grains had been mixed with boiling water to make similar dishes: rye, millet, buckwheat, and emmer wheat, among others. After the discovery of America, however, corn began to spread all over Europe and, as a result, corn flour has become the protagonist in Northern Italy, replacing other types of grains.
Nowadays, there are many regional varieties of polenta. Apart from the classic version - with its bright yellow color and slightly sweet taste - there is a white polenta, made from finer white corn flour. This type of polenta is typical of the Veneto region in North-Eastern Italy, it has a more delicate taste and it is great with fish. Finally, there is a polenta called “taragna”, where the corn flour is mixed with buckwheat flour, butter, and cheese.
Ingredients for Italian Polenta
Let me show you how to make a traditional polenta (serving 4 people):
- 4 cups (500g) corn flour
- 8 cups (2l) of water
- 1 tbsp (15g) extra virgin olive oil - optional
- 1 tbsp salt
Making polenta is very easy. You will just need a pot with a thick bottom and a sturdy wooden spoon. Let’s start by boiling the water on high heat and, as soon as it boils, add in the salt and the oil. This last ingredient is optional, but it will help you prevent the formation of lumps.
Now, it’s time to pour in the flour. Make sure you stir rapidly with the wooden spoon as you add the flour. Keep stirring until the polenta is boiling again, then lower the heat to the minimum. Let it cook for about 1 hour and stir from time to time so that it does not stick to the pot.
You will understand your polenta is ready when it detaches from the sides of the pot. At this point, transfer it to a wooden cutting board and serve.
You can eat polenta as a creamy hot porridge, or you can let it set and cool down and then slice it. The slices can also be fried or grilled to make them even more delicious. Enjoy your polenta with meat stews, lentils, mushrooms, or together with some cheese and cured meats. I like to toast my polenta slices on a griddle pan and serve them with some goat cheese, Milano salami, and rocket on top! Mamma mia!
Cheesy Variant of Italian Polenta
Finally, a cheesy variant to make your polenta super sexy!
A few minutes before you turn off the heat, you can add 7.1oz (200g) of fontina cheese and 7.1oz (200g) of toma cheese - cut into pieces. Stir until they melt into the polenta. In the alternative, you can use your favorite cheese - ideally, one that is good for melting.
Once your polenta is ready, pour it into some bowls and make a little hollow in the center, where you will add 0.9 cups (200g) of melted butter and some grated pepper. Buon appetito!
Angelo Coassin is an Italian professional dancer, actor, passionate home cook, and creator of the page @cookingwithbello. In June 2021, Angelo launched his first cookbook “Bello’s Sexy Pasta”, a collection of his most delicious and authentic pasta recipes.