Versatile Polenta Recipe

Polenta is a deliciously Italian dish that pairs well with a variety of proteins and vegetables. A little history: in Italy polenta was the poor man's food. Food was scarce in Italy and people were starving, and polenta fed the masses, especially in northern Italy. Italians ate polenta so frequently and in such quantities to survive that they would get the "polenta disease." The polenta disease was akin to what we know as scurvy.

Funny, then, that polenta should be such a fancy food in our American society. More than actually being an exotic food, it's a great staple in my household. It's very much the Italian version of grits and can also be eaten in a similar fashion. You can also make polenta to set in a pan, which is the way I prefer them, but I am going to show you both ways! It's great in the morning or at night, making polenta a great recipe to have in your arsenal.

I have used lots of variations on a theme of cornmeal, but these are the best, and should be available at your local grocery. If you can't find them there, check the local health food store. 

First bring water and cream to a boil in a big old pot 

Add your palmful of salt 

When it's boiling, add your corn grits! 

Mmmmm.... butter. You don't need a ton for this recipe, but two tablespoons will go a long way! 

When the polenta is cooked through (no more "crunchies" and it's nice and soft) you have a choice to make. You can serve it like grits in a pile on a plate, which is great especially if you are doing a fish or meat with any sort of broth around it and in this case, you are all done. OR you can put it in a pan and let it set which is my preferred way. 

When you serve the polenta "set," you can make it ahead of time and some people prefer the texture this way. It's also easier to make it all pretty looking this way..... 

Pour your polenta into a buttered pan. 
(8 X 8 is a perfect size for this recipe)

Smooth the top over and let it set 1 hour or even over night in the refrigerator. 

When you are ready to serve it, just reheat it in the oven on 350 for about 20 minutes or until heated through. It's worth the extra work in my opinion! 

Time: 45 minutes, plus 1 hour to set | Serves 4 | Difficulty: Medium 

You Will Need: 

3 1/2 cups water 
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1 cup corn grits 
1/2 cup parmesan cheese 
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing pan 
palmful of salt 


In a large sauce pan combine the heavy cream, salt, and 3 of the 3 1/2 cups water. Bring to boil. 

Once boiling, add your corn grits and once again bring back up to a boil. Reduce heat to medium so that the mixture is simmering but not boiling. 

Cook, stirring often until thick, about 15-20 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of water as the polenta thickens and loses liquid. I have found that adding all the water at the beginning just doesn't work as the corn grits absorb a lot of liquid--so I like to add additional water somewhere in the middle.) You will know that the polenta is done when it becomes tender and there is no "crunch" left in it. 

once the polenta is creamy and cooked, add in the cheese and butter, and stir until completely combined. At this point you can serve the polenta "grits style" OR: 

Grease an 8 X 8 pan with butter. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan and allot it to sit an hour in the refrigerator to set (this will allow it to hold it's shape and be easily cut and served.) Place it in a 350 degree oven to warm though, about 20 minutes, cut and serve. 

Awesome serving suggestion and the perfect fusion of Italian and Sussex County: 

One over easy egg served atop a slice of polenta with a side of scrapple! The best way to rise and shine! 

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