Polenta, or cornmeal, is made from ground maize. It has a rich yellow colour and a slightly sweet taste. It is used in the Italian dish Polenta, in which the grain is cooked in water or stock to a porridge like consistency. This can be served as-is as a wet dish, or can be left to harden then cut into fingers and grilled before serving as a snack. Polenta is also used in breads, cakes, pasta, porridge and vegetable stuffings, as well as other savoury dishes associated with grains. Polenta is the main staple of the Northern-most region of Italy.
As with bread, pasta and rice, polenta can be transformed by the method of cooking. Leave it very wet, to soak up the juices of any “liquidy” dish. Cook down further and grill it for use with sauces, salads and braised vegetables. Cook in water for a plain taste, or in a great stock for a very different flavour. I love it cooked in a stock that has been influenced by dried porcini mushrooms.
For the best results, purchase only the best polenta – look for it in your Italian grocery.
You might also like our Ingredients information here. Check out our easy Italian recipes here and here. Feel free to browse vegetarian recipes from our first blog 1995 – 2005 in our Retro Recipes series.
browse some of the Italian Style recipes