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OK.... ok .. i'm giving it up, my secret way to cook polenta that is so easy you will do it again and again

forget boiling and stirring and slaving....

put a cup of polenta (not too fine) in a saute pan with some salt and butter... add between 3 and 6 cups of water (depending on the texture you want)... stir together....put it into a 350 - 375 degree oven... come back in 40 minutes and adjust the seasonings... put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.... pull it out.... add some cheese and more butter if desired....sauce adn eat.... or put in a square pan cool and cut into squares (if you are going this route less water rather than more)


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  1. Good grief, I think I'm in love. Thanks for sharing. One Q: Cover or no cover in the oven?

    1 Reply
    1. I'll throw in the Zefiro restaurant way of making no-stir super creamy, no lumps, polenta

      Get yerself a bain marie or double boilers (we used 2 restaurant soup inserts togehter, bottom filled with water set to boil.)

      Ratio of Polenta to water 1 to 4
      Bring water + salt/chix stock to boil.
      Whisk in polenta in steady stream
      Cover with plastic wrap and place on top of double boiler bottom (soup insert that's now boiling)
      Cook over medium heat for about 40 minutes, then stir..if still grainy, re-cover and allow to cool for an additional 20 minutes.

      Stir in butter, salt, marscapone, ect...

      Also: to prevent skin from forming on top of polenta (if waiting for service) place the empty wax butter wrapper atop the polenta.

      5 Replies
      1. re: sixelagogo

        Lynne Rossetto Kasper in 'The Splendid Table', her substantial volume on Northern Italian food, advocates this long double boiler method. I used a deep stainless steel mixing bowl over my pasta pot. Last time I ended up cooking it for close to 4 hrs, adding enough water along the way to end up with close to a 5:1 ratio. The result was much smoother than any short cooked version - rich but light.


        1. re: sixelagogo

          I have used a double boiler for years for poleta. It cooks slower but lighter. I also steam quinua as couscous in a steam basket in the same way. Just a far better finish to the product

          1. re: selltile

            Just curious why the plastic wrap over the polenta when placed in the double boiler? Why not just the top? Is it to reduce the amount of space between the top of the polenta and the lid, and if that is the case, then would parchment paper work as well?

            1. re: ideabaker

              my guess is the steam rises to the top and then water drops down onto the polenta, when its atop directly its not as much of a problem. This is what you do for puddings as well.

              1. re: jefskil

                jef, would poking a couple of holes in the plastic do the trick too? steam is gonna pool up on anything and drip onto the polenta right? sorry not trying to be a naysayer but trying to see it in my mind.

        2. Great!! I will do it. Awesome tip. You rock! I must add that I LOVE Bob's Red Mill Coarse Ground Polenta for making polenta. The bigger grains give it a nice texture, and the flavor is outstanding.

          I have tried making microwave polenta by setting the power low. Just tried it once and it worked ok. Not perfected yet. Maybe to avoid lumps, toss grains with a bit of oil first!

          16 Replies
          1. re: scuzzo

            i always use Barbara Kafka's recipe from her Microwave Gourmet for polenta. It takes about 6 minutes tops and is always perfect.

            1. re: Candy

              What is Barbara Kafka's microwave recipe for polenta?

              1. re: lvhkitty

                I'll get back to you. I am at work and don't have the book here. It is in Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet. Grits do well too.

                1. re: Candy

                  Firm polenta for chilling and then grilling or frying:
                  Place 4 C. water, 1 1/4 C. cornmeal and a scant 2 tsp. salt in a 2 qt. glass bowl. Cook on high for about 12 mins., stirring once half way through. Coat a baking dish with 1 Tbs. butter. Stir 3 Tbs. butter and freshly ground pepper in to the polenta and then pour into the prepared pan. Chill well then cut into sticks, wedges, circles or whatever shape you desire. Then you can fry or grill. If you are grilling it make sure the surface is dry. Put butter or olive oil in a skillet and fry until golden on all sides. Marinara sauce is a good dip for the sticks.

                  Soft polenta. Combine 2 1/2 C. water, 1/2 C. meal. and about 3/4 tsp. salt in a 4 C. microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high 5 mins., then stir in 3 Tbs. butter and microwave an additional 5 mins. Add some freshly ground pepper to taste and serve.

                  1. re: Candy

                    I've seen this sort of recipe on tv by some chef.
                    used was a typical polenta that was cooled then cut into diamonds, fried, then a basil type pesto was drizzled over. looked good to me but even with the frying of the cut out jewels, still not sure my DH would go or it, pesto or otherwise

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      might have been michael chiarello.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        real possible • love his cooking style, his flavors etc. and used to really enjoy his demeanor as well-lately? jury's out

                    2. re: Candy

                      I use a similar method to make Chi Chi's Mexican Restaurant Sweet Corn Cakes in 15 minutes in the microwave.

                2. re: scuzzo

                  Yes! I love that particular polenta! I had it recently at a local restaurant, and it was the first time that I actually LOVED a polenta!

                  1. re: Katie Nell

                    I can't understand how anybody can NOT like polenta. My husband is one such specimen. Consequently, although I'd love to try this recipe, I'd have to make it for one and tell him to get a sandwich.

                    It's one of my favorite things on earth. He says it reminds him of Cream of Wheat and brings back bad childhood memories of school cafeterias with sodden glop in big aluminum pans on the steam table.

                    So I order it any time it's on a menu when we go out. NOT ENOUGH!!

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      I had the same problem until I melted about a lb of good quality muenster cheese into it. Now everyone is always inquiring as to when it will be 'polenta weather' again... :--}

                      1. re: Tay

                        Same problem here. My DH's favorite cheese is brie. I might have to give that approach a try!

                        1. re: diablita FL

                          my VERY SILLY boydude loves polenta, but HATES grits, reguardless of how manytimes I've pointed out that they are in the same thing or how creamy i can make grits/polenta...he's got it in his mind he's not a grit liking kinda guy

                      2. re: oakjoan

                        I like it, I just don't usually luh-ove it! On the other hand, I LUH-OVE Cream of Wheat! That brings back memories of watching Mr. Rogers on the couch while my mom went to warm up the car! :-)

                        1. re: oakjoan


                          sort of bingo to the way my husband is too

                    2. Sounds very similar to my borrowed method, but I use the microwave. I use a 2 qt pyrex measure cup, with 4 c water(any part any flavor broth), 1 c polenta, pinch thyme, s&p, cover with a plate, and set microwave on high for 14 minutes. Stir at approx. 4, 8, and 12 minutes.

                      Remove from mw, season with 1 T unsalted butter, 2 T mascarpone, 2 T grated hard cheese, adjust salt.

                      Pretty quick. Loveley served soft under lamb shanks or any rich stewed meats and veggies, or spread on a cookie sheet to cool and grill squares later. Or spread 1/3" thick and cut into strips for a stacked veg and cheese casserole, lasagne style.

                      thanks for the idea--I'll make some tonight to serve under my coq au vin. ooooo-o-o-o.

                      1. Thank you to the MAX, thew !!

                        1. I took a week of classes at the CIA this summer. The method you describe is very similar to the one they taught. It produces great polenta and is easy to do. It pretty much changed my life. If only there was an equally easy way to make gnocchi

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: frankiii

                            try making Roman style gnocchi :) That's essentially polenta made with semolina.


                            1. re: frankiii

                              A cup of instant mashed potatoes, a cup of boiling water, let sit for a couple minutes, add an egg and as much flour as you need (I think I usually use about a quarter to maybe a half cup). It takes longer to boil the water.

                              1. re: frankiii


                                thanks for bring up gnocchi. think I'll do that for my husband's dinner tonight.
                                he loves him some gnocchi. I do too. a loose pork Italian sauce will go over it.

                              2. This is an amazing technique. I'm fixing it tonight. Thanks SO much.

                                1. This looks great! Can I put it in a regular pot instead of a saute pan?

                                  1. Paula Wolfert has a similar technique, and I've used it with great results....paraphrased (I don't use the parsley):

                                    2 quarts water

                                    2 teaspoons salt

                                    2 cups coarse-ground cornmeal

                                    2 tablespoons butter

                                    2 tablespoons minced parsley

                                    Combine water, salt, cornmeal and butter in 3- to 4-quart oven-proof saucepan. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour 20 minutes. Stir polenta and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and set aside 5 minutes to rest before serving.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: eLizard

                                      Wow, am I glad you bumped this up. Polenta withOUT stirring? With cheese in it?

                                      I missed out on polenta my entire childhood, both soupy and cut in cubes, and now find it heavenly.

                                      Thanks thew and c oliver.

                                      1. re: eLizard

                                        That sounds super also. How many servings would you estimate that is? Sounds like it might be better halved for the two of us?

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          surprisingly enough it doesn't make as much as you think.....you'll have leftovers for sure for 2, but then you can slice it the next day and fry it.... i'm sorry i don't have more specifics. I think I was making it for 4 once and I barely had enough....

                                        2. re: eLizard

                                          ok, i suddenly have a craving for polenta. i'm walking into the kitchen to make this RIGHT now. you guys rock :)

                                          1. re: eLizard

                                            i've used this wolfert method for years, but usually stir in some grated parm at the end. i also vary the water ratio, depending on whether i want creamy or firm.

                                            it's failproof.

                                          2. I'm hoping to fix this tonight (Left Coast) so if you get this in time.... Approx. how much salt and butter? I like polenta soft so probably will go to larger amount of water. Let me know even if later. Thanks thew

                                            1. this is a great technique. it's the one on the back of the golden pheasant polenta bag and it has been adapted by many cookbook writers, including Paula Wolfert and Michele Ana Jordan

                                              1. As cayjohan said, I'm in love. Fixed this last night - about a week later than planned. So easy, so good and so great to not be tending it all the time. I'll only ever do it this way. And with juice from Will Owen's pork roast it was perfect. Thanks, thew.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  the only problem i have with it is that it makes such a small quanitity! the way I serve polenta (well, maybe the way I EAT polenta), ti's 2, maybe 3 servings. I've tried doubling it but it seems to at least double the cooking time. anybody found a way around this?

                                                  1. re: FED

                                                    I used a 12" saute pan and it could have held more. Maybe shallower is better?

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      uhm, at least when it comes to polenta! the thing that impressed me about this technique when i tried it years ago was that the cornmeal actually tasted like it had gotten toasted, the way it does when you do the whole constant stirring thing. it's the only short-cut method i've used (and i've used a lot of them) that did that.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        i use a baking dish, not a pan. works great. cooked polenta holds a few days in the fridge and can also be frozen.

                                                  2. Genius! I love polenta but dont make it often because I normally need to be doing something else in the kitchen rather than stand and stir.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: cassoulady

                                                      Too funny. I just referred you to this :) I really loved it also.

                                                    2. Equally easy to make polenta in an electric rice cooker, no need to heat up the oven and the kitchen.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Do you use the "porridge" setting? How much water? I like this idea!

                                                        1. re: mirage

                                                          I use the same proportions as you would cooking on the stove top. I don't recall if I use the porridge setting or not, but it's probably safe. Here's the old thread,

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            Thank you! I somehow missed this before.

                                                            1. re: mirage

                                                              Please let us know how it turns out. It would be great to have more details than I can provide.

                                                      2. I don't know--I have made polenta (and its partner in crime, risotto) on the stove many times, and I have never found it to be much effort at all, provided you use a non-stick pan. I don't stir either constantly--just from time to time, using medium-low heat. And it always turns out fine--no lumps, no scorching, nice and creamy.

                                                        Is there anyone else out there who also doesn't get the "polenta/risotto is so difficult" thing?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: zamorski

                                                          I agree. The step that can be difficult is adding the cornmeal to the boiling water. Here's what I do instead: place cornmeal, cold water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking or stirring constantly. Immediately reduce heat to the lowest setting (you will need to change burners if you have an electric stove), preferably using a flame tamer as well. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in grated parm and mozzarella.

                                                          1. re: zamorski

                                                            It's the volcanic plops of hot polenta that make it difficult for me.

                                                          2. Great recipe! I also think I am in love!. Is only 10.20am, but I am going right now to the kitchn to cook polenta for tonight!! Thank's and chau for now from a happy customer

                                                            1. Okay, I have no experience making polenta, but this method is worth a shot.

                                                              I put a cup of polenta and 4 &1/2 cups of water, 2 T. of butter and kosher salt.

                                                              I just stuck it in the oven and will now wait the 45 minutes, to add cheese and adjust the seasonings. I am looking for a creamy parmesean polenta, so I thought the 4&1/2 cups will do the trick. I'll report back. Thanks.... I think! ;)

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: mcel215

                                                                I think next time I'll go with the full six cups. So, yes please, report back on your results. The sad news for me is that my husband announced afterwards that he really doesn't love polenta :( So I won't fix it AS often as I would if we both worshipped at the altar!

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I think the next time I'll go with the 6 cups as well. It was creamy, but still thick with only 4&1/2 cups. I also oversalted a tad, because I added 1/2 cup of parm at the end I think. Mine is spread out in a 9 x 13 pan, so I can cut it in squares and pan sear for a side for dinner I guess.

                                                                  And thanks to Thew for posting an easy recipe without all of the stirring!

                                                                2. re: mcel215

                                                                  I got inspired to try this the other day when the oven was on for other things-- used 1 cup polenta to about 5 1/2 cups water (no butter). My oven was on low, so I think it was probably in maybe 1.5hrs. I stirred a few times, and eventually covered it near the end when I noticed that the top layer gets stiffer and is then harder to incorporate. Turned out great, I'll definitely use this technique again, esp. if the oven is already on anyway!

                                                                3. damn you NY TIMES!!!!!

                                                                  now it isn't so secret any more ;)


                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: thew


                                                                    Instead of parmesan is it okay to use cheddar? When I was a kid I would make polenta with cheddar for my dad and me. He called it polenta and my mom called it mush! We loved to eat it with greasy hot links. The polenta would balance out the heat and soak us that wonderful grease!

                                                                    1. re: danhole

                                                                      danhole - you have my permission to use cheddar.

                                                                      1. re: danhole

                                                                        cheddar turns polenta into grits :)

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          Not true. At least not in my world. I eat grits and it's not polenta.

                                                                          1. re: danhole

                                                                            what's the difference, to you?

                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                              Grits are coarser. Polenta is not. Just my take on it.

                                                                              1. re: danhole

                                                                                I think they're made out of the exact same cornmeal, though, aren't they?

                                                                                1. re: eLizard

                                                                                  Persnickety Southerners insist one type of corn for grits, Italians prefer a different one (dent v flint if I remember correctly). There is also 'hominy grits', made from corn that has been treated in the same way as corn for tortillas. But for the ignorant, unwashed masses outside these centers of culinary purity, there is little to no difference - unless you have discovered a boutique supplier such as Anson Mills.

                                                                                  1. re: eLizard

                                                                                    Yes they are, but my grits are white, so I'm guessing that's hominy, and my polenta is yellow, so that's regular corn meal.

                                                                                    1. re: danhole

                                                                                      Regular cornmeal can be white too.

                                                                                      I have a canister of Quaker grits that are 'white hominy grits made from corn', and a package of WhiteLily 'white corn grits', with hit that they use 'hominy'. I also have WhiteLily cornbread mix with 'white cornmeal'. So unless a company describes their product like Anson mills does, I hesitate to say much about the corn itself.

                                                                          2. re: danhole

                                                                            On this very cold morning I made soft polenta with Nodine's smoked cheddar and topped it with crispy fried sunny side eggs. Comfort breakfast.

                                                                        2. Hey, thew, great tip. I must have missed this thread the first time around.

                                                                          Do you use a particular brand of polenta? I usually cheat and use quick-cooking, but with this method would be happy to cook the real thing.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: bear

                                                                            no specific brand here, but i only used the quick cook type once, and much prefer the "real thing"

                                                                          2. Glad I saved this. Will fix tonight - again - to serve with danieljdwyer's "meat sauce" which is country style pork ribs actually, slow-cooked with tomatoes etc. Do you only use Parmesan?

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              more often than not, but no, i've used various hard sharp cheeses

                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                Fixed this again last night and used the full 6 cups of water. It was PERFECT!!!!!!!!! Upthread someone commented that the stirring is part of the joy of doing it (my words) and I don't disagree with that. But MY joy last night was sitting on the deck with our guests enjoying cocktails while the polenta did its thing. Everything was ready except for sauteeing the spinach and grilling the ciabatta. And it seems like this baked method allows a larger window of opportunity - it holds at the perfect creamy consistency while the rest of the meal is assembled. thew, I could eat this multiple times a week. Thanks, again.

                                                                            2. thew - love it/will try it - do you have a secret for rissoto, too?

                                                                              1. Thanks! We were just commenting on how I need to learn how to make polenta so we can fit it better for our uses (I'd like to fry it small plate size, and the store sells a Jimmy Dean sausage size roll that makes circles far too small), and then today I come upon this very helpful thread!

                                                                                1. I tried thew's oven method the other night. I had my doubts that it would be done in 40 min, but it was perfect. I put in 4 cups of water and it was just the right consistency to serve as a moist, but not too runny side dish. I did stop to stir it briefly twice during the cooking. But it hardly needed it! No more standing and stirring! I can have polenta or mush whenever I wish! Thank you thew!

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: EmJayC

                                                                                    Isn't it just the best? I just gave the recipe to one of my daughters who's fixing a special dinner this weekend. I told her this tastes so good and is so easy, it's *almost* embarassing.

                                                                                  2. I always make polenta on the stove top with half milk and half water/chicken broth so its creamy and flavorful. It would be nice if I didnt have to keep an eye on it so much, so would love to try to make it in the oven

                                                                                    My question-->Im wondering if making it in the oven with half milk/half broth will make a difference in the cooking time or temperature.

                                                                                    for those who arent used to making polenta or making it with cheese--try using blue cheese and/or a goat cheese/herb mix like rondelle. Adding mascarpone makes it even more decadent.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: bertabetti

                                                                                      i can't see that it would make a difference in either - but that's just an assumption on my part.....

                                                                                      1. I am finally getting around to trying this. So excited for my no-fuss polenta to complement a roasted chicken and vegetable dinner.
                                                                                        Thank you for posting this, I hope to enjoy it as much as everyone here.
                                                                                        I used Anson Mills polenta integrale, 5 c water, 1 T butter and a generous pinch of salt.
                                                                                        I'm think of dotting it with Laura Chenel chevre before serving.

                                                                                        1. Probably too late to get an answer to this. I'm doing 150% of this recipe tonight in one pan. Any thoughts on how much the cooking time is going to increase? 50%? Thanks.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                            I increased the recipe this summer by 200% and the extra cooking time was about 20 minutes. Used freshly milled corn which may have reduced the cooking time just a bit.

                                                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                                                              Thanks, kiddo. Twenty minutes was about right. It worked out fine cause I was "holding" the meat in the slow cooker and assembled the salad right at the last minute. AND, most importantly, everybody loved everything :) x,c

                                                                                          2. Okay, this might be crazy, but what do you guys think about using a baking sheet, and after the polenta cools using a CHRISTMAS COOKIE CUTTER and then baking? I wanted to bring baked polenta to an Xmas pasta buffet and thought this would be kind of neat. Would it work?

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: 3catsnh

                                                                                              you couldn't do the initial cook on a baking sheet, because the water would all spill off.

                                                                                              you could, while still hot, pour the finished polenta onto a sheet and proceed as you descrbe

                                                                                            2. I've been giving a lot of thought to making polenta.
                                                                                              Although my husband doesn't like it and never has, I'm thinking it's because he's not had good polenta. But I could be wrong, he has texture issues, can't stand hummus or garbanzo beans do to the slight bite.

                                                                                              so I fell into this thread or/and threads like this after pulling up Michael Chirarello's soft polenta recipe.


                                                                                              I'll read this entire thread first though and see if there's a common problem or solution to the undaunting or daunting task of making a lovely polenta.

                                                                                              1. I used your method, but I made the polenta in a skillet I had just roasted a chicken in, and I didn't wash it out in between, so the polenta came out a little saltier and fattier (just a little in the direction of grits, I guess) and it was fabulous. Then I randomly decided to mix Fage into it and it was SO delicious! Thanks for the method! I will be definitely trying this out when my skillet has other sauces leftover in it to make differently flavored baked creamy polentas!

                                                                                                1. don't use the full 6 cups! I read this thread and saw a few people who wished they had added more liquid, so that's what I did and the polenta was almost inedible...

                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: kazhound

                                                                                                    I just fixed this very recently and I did, as usual, use six cups and it was perfect. Wonder why yours was so bad. Now, it does produce creamy polenta but you knew that, right?

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      yep! that is what I was going for. I did add 5 cups of water and 1 cup of milk. I cooked it at 350 for 40 minutes, then when it was so watery I put it back for another 20 or so, blasting it for another 5 minutes at a much higher temperature as dinner was already late.

                                                                                                      1. re: kazhound

                                                                                                        I've never heard of polenta being made with any milk. Maybe others here will know if that's the problem. I've been making this recipe for five years now and it turns out perfectly every time. How much butter did you use? Could your oven be off? It's my go-to starch when I have a main that requires pretty precise timing, i.e., last time I made it was to go with seared duck breast.

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          my oven is pretty good - I checked my in oven thermometer when I saw that the pot was still so runny and it was dead on. Maybe it's my polenta, which is a little old? I've made polenta with milk in the past with no ill effects (though not from this recipe)

                                                                                                          1. re: kazhound

                                                                                                            The polenta I just used was probably a year or two old. I discovered it behind other things :) I'm really sorry you had this experience as it's such a slam dunk for me.

                                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                            On PBS A Chefs Life, the chef describes cooking stone ground grits in milk (using a double boiler). But since grits are white, milk works fine. Polenta is yellow, so you have to use a yellow color cooking liquid (orange juice?).

                                                                                                            I have two minds about using milk, or any dairy, in grits/polenta. It adds some richness, especially if using cream. But it also dampens some flavors.

                                                                                                            If I do add dairy, it will be toward the end, not at the start.

                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                              The current COTM, Stir, makes polenta with milk. I tried it recently and didn't like it. It was good when just made and creamy. Once it was cooled, cut in pieces, and fried, the texture was different and in general it didn't taste great.

                                                                                                      2. I've got one of those Williams-Sonoma bain-marie/double boilers with the copper bottom pan and heavy ceramic top vessel that's about that level of trouble-free for polenta making. It needs a stir maybe every ten minutes, and I might have to add some water to the bottom pan, but the polenta comes out as thick as I want with no particular effort on my part. Those things are I think $70+ from W-S; I found mine in a Cayucos antique mall for $18!

                                                                                                        Neglected to mention: I heat a quart of water (for 1 cup polenta) in my kettle and pour it into the top vessel, then whisk in the polenta. The bottom vessel water should have been simmering for a while too, to preheat the upper one.

                                                                                                        1. Made this last night, thank you OP.

                                                                                                          I have never eaten, seen or made polenta in my life but this was delicious. Served with a side of marinara.

                                                                                                          Hoping to fry up the rest! Thanks!

                                                                                                          1. I've been using a variant of this recipe for a couple of years now. Works great, I use a fair amount of butter, cool it. ,cut it into squares and grill it. Also, I use a good local stone ground cornmeal from upstate NY. Awesome stuff, except we call it mama liga.