Polenta

Polenta | Special Recipes
Polenta | Special Recipes

Polenta

Polenta is one of those things able to bring my memory back to the best times of my childhood. I remember my aunt preparing polenta on a wooden fire using a copper cauldron and saying "you need to keep stirring". The cracking noise of the wood logs, the steam, the smoke, this yellow thing that becomes more and more difficult to stir, what a wonderful experience! There is something mystical about making polenta, like when preparing bread at home, and there was no Sunday without it.
I come from the Lombardy region of Italy, specifically from Brescia province, which with Bergamo province, is probably considered the polenta area for excellence, despite it being popular in all North Italy. However, it seems that it was developed first in the North east of the country, in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy, in the 16th century. 
Anyway, polenta goes with everthing! In North Italy it is a must with any kind of game and poultry or pork meat. It is also quite common as accompaniment to fish like stockfish (stoccafisso), pike, perch, eel and many others. In this recipe I will give you few ideas about how to use polenta in its simplest and most wonderful way.
Note:polenta flour is made by ground corn kernels and it has a coarse finish. You can buy traditional polenta flour on the internet or Italian deli shops. Supermarkets usually sell "ready made" or "fast" versions of polenta but by buying them you would miss the point!
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Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6
Calories 650 kcal

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Ingredients
 

  • 4 litres Water
  • 30 grams (2 level tbs) Coarse salt
  • 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) Traditional polenta flour

Instructions

  • For 1 Kg (2 pounds 3 ounces) of polenta flour, you need a big pan (a copper cauldron for the purists!)¬†containing 4 litres (4 quarts 5/8 cup) of cold water. Put the pan on the heat (high heat – only at this initial stage) and immediately¬†add¬†the salt into the pan.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • When the water is tepid, add the flour¬†gradually. In Italy we say¬†to add the flour "a pioggia", that means like a gentle rain.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Now, whisk with energy for few seconds so that you prevent the forming of any lumps.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Next, bring the heat to medium/low and, slowly, start stirring with a big wooden spoon (in the photograph you can see that I am using a specific polenta spoon). I am sorry for your arms but now you need to keep stirring for at least 45 minutes (if you are bored, have a glass of wine¬†and listen to the music or chat with someone).
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • This photograph shows the polenta making after 10 minutes stirring.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • This photograph shows the polenta making after 20 minutes stirring.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • This photograph shows the polenta making after 30 minutes stirring. At this stage the polenta is a bit hard to stir so it would¬†probably be¬†better to hold the pan with one hand (here, using a kitchen glove would be a good idea) while stirring with the other.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • There you go, this is the polenta after 45 minutes cooking. I will stop here because the polenta is ready, since it has reached the right consistency.¬†Consistency is subjective; a purist would prefer the polenta more firm without showing¬†any flowing once spooned onto the plate,¬†but for what I have in mind¬†I need¬†the polenta still a bit flowing¬†and a further 10 minutes¬†cooking would make it too hard.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Now, I will show you few simple preparations starting from my favourite. Spoon some hot polenta onto the plate and top it with a knob of good quality butter.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Let the butter¬†melt a bit and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and eat it. Another version is to cut a¬†few small pieces of Gorgonzola cheese and¬†insert the cheese inside the hot polenta so that¬†it will melt easily. Both these preparations are delicious and very simple to make.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Another preparation is to cook some sausages. There are many different ways to cook sausages but if you want something quick and easy, just grill them. Before putting the sausages under the grill, pinch them with a fork so they will drop some of their tasty fat in the bottom of the grill pan; we will use some of this fat as well.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Start cooking the sausages about 15-20 minutes before the polenta is ready so you can top the hot polenta straightaway with them.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • When the polenta is ready, spoon some of it onto a plate, spread a couple of dessert spoons of fat (collect it from the bottom of the grill pan) over the polenta and finally top the whole thing with your sausages.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Another way to use polenta is as follows. Put a knob of butter into a shallow oven tray.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Melt the butter.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Now, using a kitchen paper, spread the butter around, including the sides. Using the kitchen paper, you will also remove the excess butter.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • For this to work perfectly, you need to use polenta that flows a bit¬†so remember¬†to use polenta at its 45 minutes cooking stage and no more. Add as many spoons as you need to cover the bottom of the tray, having a layer¬†1 cm (3/8") thick or slightly more.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Spread the polenta with a spatula to create an even and uniform layer. Leave to cool for about 1 hour.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Now, turn the tray over a flat surface (I used a glass chopping board) and let the polenta layer¬†drop down.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Cut the layer in whatever shape you like.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Put the polenta¬†pieces onto a cast iron griddle pan and cook them until their surface shows the typical¬†blackened stripes. You can top these hot pieces with Parmesan cheese or eat them as they come.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Finally, another way to have polenta is to spoon some flowing polenta onto a pizza tray. Put some¬†baking paper in the bottom of the tray, add the polenta and then cover with a second layer of paper. Using a rolling pin, you can help spread the polenta so that you have a thin layer similar to pizza.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Next, remove the top paper.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Cut the paper around the tray to look a bit more tidy.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Top the polenta layer with few small knobs of butter.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Now, it is ready for the grill or the oven. You may wish to top the layer with something else, then do it! (e.g. cured meat, different types of cheese,¬†bacon,¬†anchovy fillets etc).
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Cook until the top surface is lightly browned.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
  • Cut some slices and serve as it is.
    From what you can see, polenta is a very versatile thing and I would leave it to your imagination. Once you have mastered the basic technique, you will be able to create endless versions and amuse your family members and friends.
    Polenta | Special Recipes
Enjoyed the recipe?Buy us a glass of wine!
Federico
Jeremy

Buon appetito! Thank you from Federico (recipe Maestro) and Jeremy (web Geek).

Nutrition

Calories: 650kcal
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Categorised as Specials

By Federico

Federico Pezzaioli is an ex-badass Italian Paratrooper on a mission - to make creating delicious authentic Italian food really easy. He researches, writes and photographs each recipe with the same attention to detail he used to apply to packing his parachute.

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