Aug 252015


Polenta is what happens to cornmeal mush when you put it in a Sunday hat and set it in the front parlor to visit with company. Cornmeal mush may be poor folks food, but when you call it polenta it is transformed. Polenta is gourmet fare—fancy enough for company and upper class enough to please even your mother-in-law. You can tell her it’s Mediterranean food and it will be the truth!

If your family is very hungry, the recipe is easy to double. Make sure you use a large enough pot that it won’t overflow as it boils.

Italian Polenta

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1 or 2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine or olive oil

Measure the water into a 2-quart saucepan. Set the stove on high and whisk in the cornmeal and salt (and oil or margarine if you’re using it). You use a whisk to prevent lumps. Stir the cornmeal frequently as it cooks. I use a wooden spoon when it gets too thick for the whisk. When the water and cornmeal boil, reduce the heat to low. Allow the mush to simmer over low heat for about 20-minutes, or until it’s quite thick. Generally it’s supposed that the longer your cornmeal cooks, the better it will taste. I don’t necessarily agree with this idea, but it is traditional. If your cornmeal is less than fresh, you may add 1-teaspoon of sugar to make it taste fresher and sweeter.

While the cornmeal cooks be sure to stir it frequently. When it’s done you pour it into your preferred dish to set before serving. You have several choices at this point. The easiest way to serve it is to divide it between 4-soup or cereal bowls, one for each person. Let each person top their polenta as they like. We’ll get to toppings in a moment.

Another option is to pour the polenta into a pretty serving dish or a deep platter. Everyone can scoop out their own portion at serving time. Polenta makes a great base for chili, thick bean stews, or spicy, chunky sauces. I often use it in place of spaghetti as a base for Italian Spaghetti Sauce. If you pour it into a pizza pan you can top it with traditional pizza toppings and then bake at 400° until the toppings are hot. This type of pizza must be eaten with a fork, it can’t be eaten out of hand like traditional pizza.

If you want to make a Polenta buffet, then give each member of the family a bowl of polenta and then let them choose from a variety of toppings to add themselves. Try fried onions, shredded dairy-free cheese, dairy-free sour cream, bacon bits, chopped nuts, well seasoned white sauce, tomato gravy, brown gravy, sliced olives, chili beans, stewed tomatoes or salsa. I try to provide one sauce and 2 or 3 other toppings. Polenta is pretty good under Sloppy Joe meat or Hamburger Gravy too.

Makes 4 servings. Assuming the use of wholegrain cornmeal, and no added fat.

Per Serving: 110 Calories; 1g Fat (8.7% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 282mg Sodium.

Exchanges: 1-1/2 Grain(Starch).



  4 Responses to “Italian Polenta”

  1. If you fancy a change from it being mushy, you can let it set, slice it, and then grill it (I think you use the word broil?)

  2. When I was a kid, we had fried mush (polenta) (great depression times) often, but mom would mix small scraps of leftover meat into it before she poured it in the form to get firm…then slice it and fry…I love it yet…

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