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What is Polenta?

Polenta Definition, Uses, Recipes, and Buying Guide


Anson Mills White Polenta

Anson Mills' fine-ground white polenta has a refined smoothness and delicately beaded texture when cooked.

Kay Rentschler for Anson Mills

Definition: Polenta is a cornmeal mush or porridge that originated in Northern Italy as a peasant food. Though most typically made with coarse yellow cornmeal, polenta can also be made from finely ground yellow or white cornmeal. 

Traditional recipes call for slow cooking in water or broth, though much of the cooking time can be unattended. Modern shortcuts include the use of instant or precooked polenta. Polenta is often served as a soft, thick mush, which may be topped with sauce, a hearty ragoût , or cheese. Cooked polenta can also be cooled until firm and cut into wedges, rounds, or other shapes, which can be baked, grilled, or pan-fried.

Pronunciation: poh-LEHN-tah

Types of Polenta: Coarse ground polenta, finely ground polenta, instant polenta, white polenta, precooked (tube) polenta

Polenta Uses:

  • Serve soft polenta, either plain or with herbs or cheese, as a side dish.
  • Use polenta as the base for vegetarian main dish, topped with sauce or a hearty vegetable ragoût.
  • Serve polenta instead of pasta or rice as an accompaniment to meat sauces, stews, or chilis.
  • Try soft-cooked polenta as a hot breakfast cereal, topped with fresh or dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and milk.
  • Use baked or grilled polenta rounds as a base for hors d'oeuvres or appetizers.
  • Use precooked or homemade polenta in casseroles.
  • Use polenta to replace the biscuit or puff pastry topping on pot pies.

Polenta Recipes:

Two-Cheese Polenta Casserole with Mushrooms, Corn, and Spinach

Polenta with Maple Caramelized Apples

Michael Chiarello's Polenta Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms

Buying Guide:

Bob's Red Mill sells stone-ground coarse ground yellow polenta in regular, organic, and certified gluten-free versions. Bob's polenta has a robust, true corn flavor and satisfying texture. Buy online at BobsRedMill.com. Kehilla Kosher. Price: From $2.19/1.5 pound bag.

Anson Mills offers artisan fine polenta ground from new-crop white or yellow flint corn, as well as a rustic coarse polenta integrale, ground from heirloom red trentino flint corn. Buy online at AnsonMills.com. Price: $5.95 to $7.50/12 oz.

Trader Joe's Precooked Polenta Review

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