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Polenta recipes and cooking tips

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Italy's other great grain

Besides pasta, one of Italy's favorite dishes is polenta, especially in the northern part of the country. Made of cornmeal, polenta has experienced a steady rise in popularity, being featured on restaurant menus worldwide and enjoying a delicious array of creative variations from professional and home cooks alike. Polenta is super easy to make, can be combined with almost anything, and is extremely cheap (notably, it was once a peasant food). Here are some cooking tips and polenta recipes so you can roll up your sleeves and get to stirring!


Polenta recipes


Classic Soft Polenta

Makes 4 to 6 servings


2 quarts water
Salt to taste (at least 1 large teaspoon)
1 pound of yellow cornmeal


1. Bring water and salt to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed or copper pot. Add cornmeal to pot slowly, so the water does not stop boiling.


2. Stir with a wooden spoon continually, lowering heat to medium. Cook, stirring in the same direction, for 15 to 30 minutes.


3. Polenta will begin to thicken – add more boiling water if necessary and taste for salt. The longer you stir the polenta, the creamier it will be. You know the polenta is finished when it easily releases from the pot.


Polenta Fries

Makes 8 servings


2 cups whole milk
1 quart chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
3-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 ounces Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 quart vegetable oil for frying


1. Add milk, stock and butter to a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Gradually add cornmeal into pot, making sure water stays at a boil.


2. Stir with a wooden spoon continually, lowering heat to medium. Cook, stirring in the same direction, for 15 to 30 minutes. Polenta will begin to thicken – add more boiling water if necessary.


3. When polenta is finished, stir in cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Spoon mixture onto a cookie sheet, spreading out with the back of a spatula, and chill until firm.


3. Heat oil in a large deep skillet or deep fryer to 365 degrees F. Meanwhile, cut polenta into large rectangles. Gently place polenta into the hot oil and cook until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes, flipping if necessary. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels.


Note: You can also bake the fries. After chilling and cutting, cook them in a 350 degree F. oven for 20 minutes, flipping fries over after 10 minutes.


Citrus Polenta Cake

Makes 10 to 12 servings


2 cups butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar plus more for dusting
6 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 lemons, grated peel and juiced
2 cups almond flour
1-1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and coat a 10-inch round cake pan with butter and flour. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl until fluffy. Beat eggs in one at a time, beating in vanilla, lemon peel and lemon juice.


2. Combine almond flour, cornmeal and baking powder and stir into butter mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan and cover with aluminum foil.


3. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let fully cool and dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.


More perfect polenta recipes

Polenta Chicken Cutlets
Herbed Polenta
Sage Polenta with Leeks, Parmesan and Pistachios

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