In a large, deep saucepan, boil the water. add the salt – the water will bubble and fizz for a moment before calming down a little. Before your water begins to boil once more, whisk at the ready, slowly pour in cornmeal, always stirring in the same direction. At this point the whisk will ensure an absence of lumps. Once you’ve added all of the cornmeal, turn the heat down to a low-moderate temperature. As soon as the cornmeal is absorbed and your mixture starts to thicken, substitute your whisk with a strong/thick wooden spoon. Cook your polenta for at least 40 minutes, stirring frequently, almost scooping the polenta from bottom to top with large, circular movements. Don’t leave your polenta to stand for longer than 5 minutes between stirrings. The polenta is ready when it’s firm and begins to pull away from the edges of the saucepan. If it becomes too firm add a small splash of low-fat milk, stirring until the milk is absorbed into the polenta. Remove from heat. place a wooden board/tray over your saucepan and flip the saucepan over to allow the polenta to fall onto the board (you may have to bash the bottom of your pot to coax it out). your polenta should fall out and stand firmly on the board leaving a thin layer of corn meal around the saucepan. Soak your saucepan in water as soon as possible – it’ll make it SO much easier to clean!
Polenta is a dish typically, and originally, from the north of Italy. The recipe in “That Really Cool Italian Cookbook” is Polenta Bergamasca – from Bergamo – which is a firm, yellow polenta. Polenta is a paste,
or dough, made from yellow or white (or a mixture of both if desired) cornmeal, boiled in lightly salted water to create a very thick, porridge-like consistency.
These days you can find polenta throughout Italy, with each town boasting theirs is the only way to go! Polenta Bergamasca is famous for its firmer, coarser texture, as opposed to the more common softer, white polenta served elsewhere. In fact, many local traditions use the white, softer version as a substitute for purée or mashed potatoes. Polenta has become more and more popular in recent years and is often a hit with those of us who are trying to keep our meat intake to a minimum While it contains many nutrients, it’s not a good substitute for meat and proteins; it’s just a fantastic filler in any meal.
Traditionally, polenta can take an hour or longer to prepare and it has to be stirred frequently whilst cooking. You can find quick-cook, microwaveable polenta available, which is ready in just a few minutes, though general consensus is that the taste is far inferior to that of the slow-cooked version. Polenta is best served fresh from the pot and piping hot! Though it’s not overly tasty, it lends itself perfectly as an excuse to mop up (and savour) the juices of any accompanying meat, sauce, gravy or better yet, folded around a healthy slice of soft, tasty cheese – that’s ‘comfort food’ for Italians. Though a thoroughly welcome visitor in winter, polenta is a hearty accessory to any occasion, is usually accompanied by meat,
fish or mushrooms, and it really fills the spot.
Leftovers? Throw your polenta in the fridge overnight where it will harden slightly, and if it wasn’t already it will become cut-able. The next morning toss a couple of slices in the pan and throw over a fried egg. Hmmm... too good!