Polenta the dish can be made from many things. The ingredient labeled "polenta" is most often coarsely-ground or finely-ground cornmeal. In fact, we can use plain old everyday yellow cornmeal interchangeably with actual polenta. Polenta can also be made from ground semolina, as is traditional in Northern Italy, or even ground buckwheat. Each has their own unique character and flavor.
When cooked with water or broth and finished with a handful of cheese, these grains turn into a thick, creamy porridge. A scoop of polenta is the perfect accompaniment to braised meat, hearty ragus, grilled vegetables, or roast chicken. One of my favorite weeknight meals is simply polenta topped with wilted greens and a fried egg.
Polenta will gradually firm up as it cools. If you pour leftover polenta into a loaf pan or 8x8 baking dish and refrigerate, the next day it will be thick enough to cut. You can roast the polenta cubes (or make polenta fries!), grill whole pieces, or dissolve them into soup to make a thicker stew. This firm polenta is also the start of Tuscan Polenta Gnocchi: layer rounds of firm polenta with cheese and bake until crisp and bubbly.
Give polenta a try with some of these dishes:
• Recipe Review: Marcella Hazen's No Stir Polenta • Barlotti Beans in Tomato Sauce Over Creamy Polenta • Pork Ragu and Semolina Gnocchi • Fried Eggs and Collard Greens Over Polenta • Polenta Gnocchi in Tomato Sauce from Epicurious
What do you do with polenta?
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