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Polenta: From Peasant to Present

Where once it was just a humble peasant food, polenta has emerged as a versatile, fine-dining-style comfort food. The celebrated Italian cornmeal can be made into lovely, eye-catching terrines (in its hardened form) or simply stirred with butter and Parmgiano as a rich and creamy porridge.

 

What is Polenta?

Made with (medium to coarse) stone-ground cornmeal, polenta is often dubbed “Italian grits.” Like grits, polenta is a traditional hearty porridge with a grainy texture. Polenta originated in Northern Italy, where it was essential to the diets of many peasant and working class people—being both simple and satisfying. Though polenta is thought to be solely a cornmeal dish, in Italy, its name refers also to porridges made with stone-ground dried legumes, such as chickpeas and fava beans. This humble dish has been a primary staple of Italian cuisine for centuries.

 Cheesy Stuffed Polenta with Italian Sausage & Tomato-Basil Sauce

Cheesy Stuffed Polenta with Italian Sausage & Tomato-Basil Sauce

 

Two Ways

As a soft, just-cooked porridge, polenta takes on the flavors of its added ingredients, enhancing the final dish with its sweet corn flavor and hearty texture. Simply, polenta can be served with just butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano for a creamy rich porridge, but also can serve as the base of a thick stew by adding meat and vegetables.

Traditionally, polenta was poured in the middle of a large wooden board, where it would cool. Once cooled, it would harden, and then be cut with string for serving. Firm polenta is cut into shapes, thin or thick, then grilled, baked, sautéed or pan-fried … the possibilities are endless! Some like to serve up the hardened version of polenta topped with a rich tomato sauce, while others enjoy it layered with meats and cheeses, then baked as its own version of lasagna. Try it brushed with olive oil and garlic, then grilled and topped with mushrooms, peppers and onions. There is no wrong way to enjoy it!

Along with the myriad of savory recipes made with polenta, this versatile cornmeal dish stars in some sweet dishes too—everything from breakfast cereals and pancakes to muffins and cakes.

 

Stovetop Polenta Tips

DeLallo Polenta is instant, taking mere minutes to create a hearty batch of the creamy comfort food; however, if you’re looking for tips on creating from-scratch stovetop polenta, we have a few for you.

  • Polenta can lose flavor and become bitter if stored to long in your pantry. So be sure to buy it and use it at its freshest.
  • Finer grounds of cornmeal create a thinner polenta. Conversely, courser grounds produce a thicker polenta. Medium-ground polenta is preferable for most preparations.
  • The ratio of water to polenta is typically 3:1. Since polenta pops up when it boils, a large pot should be used (half full of water) to avoid accidents.
  • Traditionally, a large copper pot with a heavy bottom is used to prepare polenta, but any heavy-bottomed pot will do.

 

Some of our FAVORITE POLENTA RECIPES:

Cheesy Italian Sausage Stuffed Polenta Bites Parmesan Polenta with Lemon & Sage Steaks Layered Polenta Terrine with Italian Sausage & Cheese
Cheesy Italian Sausage
Stuffed Polenta Bites
Parmesan Polenta with
Lemon & Sage Steaks
Layered Polenta Terrine with
Italian Sausage & Cheese

 

 

Hashtag #DeLalloItalian on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to share your best loved polenta creations.