At work today I brought some leftover roasted vegetables with spices and almonds along with a good heaping of polenta for lunch. I didn’t think much of it until everyone was like, “what is that?”, “what’s polenta?”, “how do you make it?”, and in one case: “is that some weird hippie food?” – the answer, of course, was no! It’s Italian food! Northern Italian food, actually. In Northern Italy they use it as an alternative to pasta. It’s really just a simple cornmeal based starch – and it’s divine!
I actually get massive cravings for both the flavor and the texture of polenta. It’s creamy. It’s grainy. It’s soft yet firm. It’s beautiful – if it’s done right. And I think it’s pretty darn hard to screw up as long as you make sure to A: Take your time and B: add the cornmeal into the liquid slowly and stir!!! You don’t want lumpy lumps!
Anyhow, all the questions I yielded today have prompted me to give you my very basic polenta recipe. It’s so easy, there really isn’t any excuse for buying that ready made stuff from the store. Try it next time you plan on making pasta. Or mashed potatoes for that matter! Mmmm I love mashed potatoes….. But I also love polenta. So here it goes:
- 1 - 1 1/2 C Fine Grind Corn Meal (if you use 1 C you will have a softer polenta - if you use 1 1/2 C it will be much more firm. Both versions are good. See what suits you).
- 4 C Chicken or Veggie Broth.
- 1 C Water.
- 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- 2 Tbsp. Butter, unsalted & room temperature.
- Kosher Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper to taste.
- 1 Lemon for juice.
- 1/2 C Shredded Parmesan Cheese.
- In a large pot bring the stock, water, olive oil and lemon juice to a simmer (just below boiling) over medium heat.
- As it heats mix the cornmeal, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Once the liquid is at a good simmer SLOWLY pour in the cornmeal/salt mixture in a steady stream, stirring constantly to avoid clumping.
- Continue stirring for about 10 minutes (give or take) until the meal has thickened, cooked through and of desired consistency. At the last minute, dump in the Parmesan and butter. Stir well to mix through and serve.
P.S. In Italy they often just toss some delicious tomato sauce on top or some extra grated Parmesan and serve as a side dish to other entres (i.e. like mashed potatoes).