Polenta (Basic Recipe)


1 lb. yellow polenta, coarsely ground
2 qts. water
1/4 oz. salt

How to make the Polenta (Basic Recipe):

The best kind of pot for cooking polenta (cornmeal mush) is the traditional paiolo, a huge copper pot without a tin lining, and with a convex bottom. Stirring is done with a proper wooden paddle called tarello. The pot should only be half full, or the water might overflow when you add the cornmeal. The water should be properly salted in the beginning in order to avoid having to add either salt or water later during cooking.

This ratio applies to a soft polenta, which is always served with a condiment or with the addition of other ingredients. If polenta is to be baked, grilled or eaten a substitute for bread, use a 3:1 ratio of water to polenta, and the same amount of salt.

Bring the proper quantity of water to a boil, adequately salted, then lower the heat (be careful, because in the beginning, while adding cornmeal, boiling water might easily splash) and add the coarsely ground cornmeal, little by little, stirring constantly. Do not pour directly from the container, but use your hands, pouring a handful at time. After adding all the cornmeal, turn up the heat and cook for 40-50 mins. stirring constantly. While cooking, the heat should be high enough to cause bubbles to rise and burst on the surface. While stirring, pull the cornmeal off the sides of the pot and from the bottom up. When ready, the polenta should come off a wooden spoon (tarello) and the sides of the pot.

It can be served hot immediately with the desired condiment, or it may be poured out of the paiolo onto a wooden board. To do so, smooth the surface of the polenta and, with a brisk move, turn the paiolo upside down and polenta will easily come out. Cut with a wooden knife and serve. Polenta is often cut with a piece of thick string stretched tightly between two hands.

Polenta made with finely ground cornmeal forms lumps easily. In order to avoid this, add 1/5 of the cornmeal to the salted water while it is still cold, mixing with a whisk. Once the cornmeal is blended with the water, cover, in order to prevent boiling polenta from splashing, and let boil for 10 mins. Then, stirring constantly, add the remaining cornmeal following the procedures described in basic method.

Serves 6