A great, slow cooked, pot of polenta can be transformative, while bad polenta, often made with “quick cooking” or instant corn meal, will turn you off to corn for years to come. Polenta is essentially cornmeal ground in either a fine, medium, or coarse fashion. Like most Italian dishes, the better the cornmeal you select the better the outcome. We suggest a coarse grind from a local mill who utilizes organic corn (we used Farmer Ground from Trumansburg, NY).
We find the trick to outstanding polenta is to cook it for a sufficient amount of time. Cornmeal, especially the coarse variety, needs time swell and become fully cooked (kind of like arborio rice). We always make a large batch of polenta so we can bake or fry it the next day with a different topping. Here’s our simple recipe.
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup course ground cornmeal (buy the best you can afford)
- Grated Grana Padano to taste
- Butter to taste
- Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil and slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking until it becomes thick. Turn the flame to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. You can, of course, stir every few minutes but we find this method unnecessary. We stir every 8-10 minutes, though do check if the mixture is become too dry/thick (too quickly); if this is the case simply add a bit hot water. Add cheese and butter and stir. Serve hot. If you'd like you can stir in mushrooms or top with a bit of tomato sauce.