Polenta is a simple Italian dish of cooked cornmeal, somewhat similar to Southern-style grits. It can been prepared to varying consistencies, and is a great accompaniment to hearty dishes like beef stew. Polenta is also great on its own as a breakfast cereal.
Polenta is very easy to prepare, and cooks quickly. I like to add grated cheese for extra flavor. Cook the polenta a bit longer if you prefer a thicker consistency. Save any leftovers overnight in the refrigerator. Chilled polenta can be cut into squares (or any shape) and sautéed in butter for an excellent breakfast or side dish. If you spread the polenta into a thin layer in a pyrex dish while it is warm, once it has chilled you can cut it into small circles, crisp them in a skillet (they will be very much like little arepas), then top them with something tasty (like aji de gallina, or avocado salsa, for example) to make a nice little appetizer.To reheat polenta back to a creamy consistency, heat it gently on the stove or microwave, adding a bit of water or milk as needed until it reaches desired consistency.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 4-6.
- 2 cups yellow coarsely ground corn meal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Place the cornmeal in a heavy stockpot. Gradually add 2 cups of water and the salt to the cornmeal, whisking the mixture well as you add the water, until the cornmeal and water are well mixed and free of any lumps.
- Bring the remaining two cups of water to a boil, then add the boiling water gradually to the corn meal mixture, whisking at the same time.
- Cook the cornmeal over medium low heat, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, until mixture comes to a gentle simmer. Add the milk and the butter and continue to cook over low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes longer.
- Taste the polenta for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Add more liquid (milk, cream, or water) if mixture seems too thick. If mixture is too thin, cook the polenta a bit longer, watching carefully and stirring constantly to prevent sticking, until desired consistency is reached. The mixture should be thick, but will thicken even more as it cools. Remove from heat and whisk in the grated cheeses until they are melted and incorporated.
- Serve polenta warm, with extra grated Parmesan cheese on the side.