Polenta is just a coarse corn-meal mush or a fancy term for grits. Corn wasn’t brought to Italy until the 16th century, but it quickly became a staple, especially in the northern regions. In Italy, polenta is stirred with a wooden stick in a heavy copper pot. Stir is the key word here – it takes a good thirty minutes of elbow grease to get a bowl of polenta on the table. If you are not familiar with polenta, I urge you to give it a try. Maybe you can enlist a helper to stir while you finish-up dinner? If you are using a salty stock, you will not need the entire teaspoon of salt.
6 cups water (or stock or combination)
1 1/2 cups polenta
(I use Bob’s Red Mill – another great Oregon company!)
1 teaspoon kosher salt – or to taste
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste
Bring the water to a boil in a heavy pot. Add the salt and, using a whisk, add the polenta very, very slowly to the water, stirring constantly. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the mush, over a very low flame until it is cooked through and is the desired consistency – about 30 minutes. (If the polenta splatters, the flame is too high.) Stir in the butter, then the cheese and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately – with a little more cheese as garnish, if desired.
Serves 4 to 6.