RELATED: Polenta tart with sausage & broccoli
What is polenta?
Often mistaken for an ingredient, the term ‘polenta’ actually refers to an entire dish - a porridge or mush that’s made from coarsely ground cornmeal. It originated in Europe in the 16th century and is most often derived from yellow corn, although farro, chestnuts, millet, spelt and chickpeas can also be used.
How is polenta made?
Traditionally, polenta is cooked slowly over low heat until the grains swell and the starches are released. At this point, it has a thick, creamy consistency and is ready to be eaten.
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup polenta
3 tbsp butter
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Bring salted water to a boil in a large saucepan.
- Pour polenta slowly into the boiling water, whisking constantly.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often until the mixture starts to thicken (about 5 minutes.)
- Cover and cook for 30 minutes, whisking regularly (you may need a wooden spoon when mixture begins to thicken.)
- When the texture is creamy and the grains are tender, turn off the heat.
- Stir the butter and cheese into the polenta until melted.
- Cover and let stand 5 minutes to thicken.
- Stir and season, before transferring to a serving bowl.
Note: After it has cooled or been chilled, the consistency of polenta changes and it solidifies. From here, it can be cut into pieces and baked or grilled to your liking (e.g. polenta chips).
What does it taste like?
When perfectly cooked, polenta is smooth, creamy and not at all the grainy, sand-like texture you might expect. It is also neutral in taste and takes on the flavours of whatever you cook with it. It is most similar to the Southern-American staple grit.
What is polenta good for?
Although polenta is usually paired with a tomato-based sauce, butter or cheese, it is the ideal accompaniment to virtually any meal – be it meat, seafood or veggies. It can also be seared, grilled or fried and enjoyed on its own.
Below are some of our favourite polenta-based recipes:
RELATED: Pea & artichoke on crispy polenta