Polenta is a simple Italian dish of cooked cornmeal, somewhat similar to Southern-style grits. It can be prepared in various consistencies and is a tasty accompaniment to hearty dishes like beef stew. Polenta is also delicious on its own as a breakfast cereal.
Polenta is easy to prepare and cooks quickly. Cook the polenta a bit longer if you prefer a thicker consistency. Grated cheese adds extra flavor to this traditional dish.
Save any leftovers in the refrigerator. Polenta is easy to reheat, and you can do that in several ways.
- Chilled polenta can be cut into squares, or any shape, and sauteed in butter for an excellent breakfast or side dish.
- Or you can cut chilled polenta into small circles and crisp them in a skillet -- they will be very much like little arepas -- and then top them with something tasty, like aji de gallina or avocado salsa, for example, to make a nice little appetizer. If you spread the polenta into a thin layer in a pyrex dish while it is warm, it makes it easier to cut it into circles.
- To reheat polenta back to a creamy consistency, heat it gently on the stove or microwave, adding a bit of water or milk as needed until it reaches the desired consistency.
- 2 cups yellow coarsely ground cornmeal
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Place the cornmeal in a heavy stockpot.
- Gradually add 2 cups of water and the salt to the cornmeal, whisking the mixture well as you add the water until the cornmeal and water are well-mixed and free of any lumps.
- Bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil, then add the boiling water gradually to the cornmeal mixture, whisking at the same time.
- Cook the cornmeal over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer.
- Add the milk and butter and continue to cook over low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes longer.
- Taste the polenta for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
- Add more liquid (milk, cream or water) if the mixture seems too thick. If the mixture is too thin, cook the polenta a bit longer, watching carefully and stirring constantly to prevent sticking, until the desired consistency is reached. The mixture should be thick but will thicken even more as it cools.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar and Parmesan until they are melted and incorporated.
- Serve polenta warm with extra grated Parmesan cheese on the side.