Creamy Polenta

Ingredients for Creamy Polenta

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup polenta, finely ground
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions for Creamy Polenta

  1. In a large pot, bring the milk and water to a boil.  Gradually add in the polenta, whisking into the liquid.  Reduce heat to low, lid off, and whisk occasionally.
  2. Continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, so the polenta won't stick to the bottom of the pot.  Remove from heat once the polenta has thickened.
  3. Add butter to the polenta, salt and pepper to your taste.  Serve immediately. 
  4. Serving suggestions: top with a mushroom medley, grated cheese, or meat.  
Recipe courtesy of FoodandGladness.com

Making polenta has been on my to-do list for sometime, but I haven't gotten around to making this Italian staple until now.  There seems to be some misconceptions regarding polenta.  I read some opinions that says polenta and cornmeal are the same, but most reference based sources say that polenta differs from cornmeal.  Although both are corn based, polenta uses a different type of corn called "flint" that contains a hard starch center.  When cooked, the flint releases the starch which provides the creaminess in polenta.  

To make the subject of polenta more cloudy, turns out that the northern Italians used semolina wheat or buckwheat to create polenta, not corn.  It wasn't until after Columbus discovered America that the corn flint was introduced into the Italian cuisine (same time period as the Italian Renaissance).  Polenta was an Italian peasant food, baked more like bread versus served creamy in order to pack it up while traveling.  Polenta still is a cost effective meal.  One cup of dry polenta will yield up to 6 cups of cooked polenta.   

Since I don't plan on taking my polenta on the go, I made the creamy version.  This is a satisfying, warm meal on a cold Winter's day.  I topped mine with sauted mushrooms, bacon, and caramelized onions in a balsamic glaze.  But, you could also top this with a thinning sliced steak for a more substantial meal.  Polenta is very easy to make; if you can make stovetop oatmeal, you'll be able to conquer this.  I hope you enjoy this little taste of Italy.  Mangia!