Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 30 min
(Total time will vary with appliance and setting.)
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Makes 4 cups or 8 servings
4 cups water or a combination of chicken or vegetable stock and water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal (preferably coarsely ground) or "instant" polenta
- Bring water and salt to a boil and gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
- Cook the polenta over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until the polenta is thick and pulls away the edge of the pot—about 30 minutes for coarse cornmeal or about 15 minutes for instant polenta.
- Remove from heat.
For more flavor, add to the just-cooked polenta small amounts of butter, olive oil or grated cheese, or creamy cheeses like goat cheese, gorgonzola or blue cheese. To vary the seasonings, try adding some basil, oregano or cilantro. Add finely chopped cooked vegetables like mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers and olives to the polenta.
Polenta is currently in vogue in many gourmet home and restaurant kitchens, but it has been a staple of Northern Italy since the 1800s. Polenta, which is made from cornmeal, deserves its popularity, since it is practical, easy to prepare, highly versatile and wheat-free. And it is delicious even in its simplest form, creamy soft polenta, also known as cornmeal mush or grits. Polenta resembles cream of wheat when first cooked, but it thickens and firms up quickly as it cools, and it will take the shape of whatever container you pour it into when still hot. Once it cools, you can slice it or cut it into any shape you like. You can use biscuit cutters to make perfect circles or even cookie cutters for shapes that will delight your children. Many chefs will fry, broil or grill the slices of firm, cooled polenta for additional texture and flavor.
Similar to other grains, cooked polenta contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate per half-cup, but it can be extended with other foods to decrease the carb count, if necessary. Choose coarsely ground cornmeal, since it is the least processed and has the lowest glycemic index.
Other Recipe Ideas for Polenta
- Make a tamale pie by crumbling cooked polenta and mixing with chili and cheese before baking.
- Create a polenta "pizza" using thin slices of polenta for the crust; top with vegetables and cheese.
- Stuff whole bell peppers or scooped-out zucchini "boats" or other squash with polenta.
- Serve vegetables and tofu on top of polenta.
Nutrition at a Glance
(per 1/2-cup serving)
Total fat 0g;
Saturated fat 0g;
Total carbohydrates 15g;
Dietary fiber 2g;