Polenta, though, is not always made from corn, so the terminology does get a little confusing. Sometimes it's made from semolina, and in some places it has ground buckwheat mixed with the cornmeal. But in general, when you see "polenta" for sale, it's coarsely ground cornmeal.
We buy our cornmeal for making polenta from the bulk bin of stoneground cornmeal at our co-op — no need to get fancy about it. We've even made polenta from finely ground cornmeal, which has a slightly different final texture, but is just as delicious.
Which brings us to our point: Marcella Hazan's polenta. Polenta is like risotto: it has a reputation for needing lots and lots and lots of stirring. Constant stirring! This is supposed to keep out lumps and create a creamy texture. Well, we are lazy and fortunately Marcella Hazan's recipe enables us in that. She has a recipe that always turns out creamy, lump-free, and delicious.
It's very easy: you bring your water or stock to boiling, thoroughly whisk in the cornmeal, bit by bit, and then simmer it on low with a lid on. You do stir a couple of times, but mostly you just let it sit there and do its thing. Then take off the lid and ta-da! Perfect polenta. We don't know why we'd do it any other way.
We like to throw in a half cup of mascarpone cheese to make it extra-creamy, or Parmesan for a little more flavor. But that's gilding the lily, to be honest; polenta is so creamy all by itself it doesn't need much help.
• Get the recipe: Creamy Polenta from Marcella Hazan at Epicurious
How do you make polenta? Do you have any tried and true tricks for good polenta?
(Images: Faith Durand)