HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >



  • k

One of my 2009 food goals was to learn to make and enjoy polenta. I wanted to make the Pancetta and Hominy Polenta http://www.chow.com/recipes/10867 as I figured anything with Pancetta can't be bad but I can not get my hands on the hominy today, is it essential, what flavors and textures would i be missing if I omitted it?. And how about a plain Polenta Recipe without any add-ins like the pancetta, would hounders mind giving me their tried and true recipes as I know plenty of people swear polenta can be great by itself.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: thew

      ok so excited that my first attempt will be an easy method. A little worried though. Sent S.O. to the store and they brought back: Pre-cooked Maize Meal Instant Polenta. Is this the proper product for your version?

      1. re: kayEx

        Medium ground or coarse ground cornmeal is used to make Italian polenta.

      2. re: thew

        I do a stove top version but I also start by adding the polenta to cold water, stir to incorporate, only then do I turn on the heat. No lumps no constant stirring.

        1. re: thew

          I like the double boiler method, but it does take time -- it's edible after 45 minutes, but much smoother after 90 minutes.

          1. re: jlafler

            I have started the cornmeal in a regular sauce pan, and once it thickens a bit, transfered it to the double boiler. I start at 3:1 water ratio, and stir in additional water if the mush seems too thick.

          2. re: thew

            Oop, posted to your original. This sounds amazing. I'm fixing it tonight. Thanks.

          3. I had a lasagna made with polenta at a cute trendy restaurant in Vancouver before. It was essentially semilar ingredients for lasagna, but layered with polenta instead. I have tried it at home as well, and it works very nicely. Also excellent if you need to have a have gluten free dish for guests.

            1. WE make it the old fashioned way stirring, etc. We pour the finished product on to a large slab of wood and spread it out (the length of our table). We serve it with many accompaniments - people add what they like:
              ~garlic sauteed broccoli rabe
              ~hand cut small pces of pork (from when we make sausages in Jan) that have been fried
              ~tomato sauce with homemade sausages in them (and ribs which are enjoyed later)
              ~sauteed wild mushrooms
              ~plain tomato sauce
              ~a boatload of grated parm is great on top
              Sometimes we pour individual servings on to large platters per person. We just had this after the first snowfall over a month ago. Later this month, when we make our sausages, we will do it again; now I have a hankering for polenta.
              We always pour some into a small, rimmed (oiled) cookie sheet and refrigerate. Next day, slice and fry in very little oil or grill. Top with fontina or left over toppings.

              1. That chow recipe only calls for 1/3c of hominy. The whole kernels of corn add an interesting texture contrast, but don't change taste. They are rather like raisins in a pudding. Also that addition is an innovation, not anything traditional.

                If you know how to make oatmeal or cream of wheat (or grits) you know the basics of making polenta. It is after all, just Italian corn mush. Actually Italians made polenta before they got corn; they just used other grains, or even chestnut flour.

                Pouring the meal into the boiling water in a thin stream is just one way of minimizing lumps. Other ways include mixing the meal with cold water, and adding that slury to the hot, or mixing it with the cold water right at the start, and stirring enough.

                The other trick to good polenta is to cook it as long as you can afford. Longer cooking with sufficient water produces a smoother polenta, as it gives the grains enough time to absorb as much water as they can. With an improvised double boiler I've cooked it for as long as 3 hrs, ending up with a 5:1 water ratio. I've gotten similar results using a pressure cooker (with a bowl inside the cooker), in much less time.

                The other items in recipes just add flavor and richness. Simple polenta makes a good base for sauces and meat dishes (think of it as mashed potatoes). Stiffer polenta can be chilled, sliced and fried (or baked). Sweetened versions used to be common as supper and breakfast in poorer households.

                1. My wife, an Ohio girl, introduced me to a breakfast treat that you might enjoy. She makes up a batch of Polenta which is very thick when completely cooked. I believe she uses about a cup of Polenta to 3 - 4 cups of water; and she stirs it almost continuously for about thirty minutes. She spoons the finished product into mini loaf pans and cools them over night in the fridge. Next morning she takes them out of the loaf pans and slices them very thin before she drops them into a pan of hot butter and fries them to a nice crisp finish. It isn't a quick breakfast but your kids (who aren't kids any more) will tell you stories about how they'd fight over who got the next batch. Great with just S&P or swimming in syrup ...

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: todao

                    no, no, this isn't polenta, it's fried cornmeal mush! a good American tradition :)

                    Another American version is scraple - the cornmeal cooked with pork scraps and broth, chilled like this, and fried. I suppose it is more typical of Pennsylvania.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Yeah, you're right paulj. It is fried corn meal mush. But she uses "Polenta" so I figured it would fit in with that part of the post that reads "would hounders mind giving me their tried and true recipes as I know plenty of people swear polenta can be great by itself" and my family likes it so much I just couldn't resist sharing the idea.

                      1. re: todao

                        I just fried some leftover polenta (err cornmeal mush) in olive oil, and served it with leftover coq au vin (with ideas borrowed from a Catalan rabbit recipe) - talk about blurring boundaries :)

                      2. re: paulj

                        Not polenta, not cornmeal mush - them's grits! But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet...

                    2. This is one of our favorite ways to enjoy polenta (baked polenta with swiss chard & cheese): http://projects.washingtonpost.com:80... . But I double the amount of chard and I use full-fat cheese. It's a really easy recipe and tastes wonderful. It's also quite pretty in its clear glass dish.

                      1. Polenta is made from ground corn. Hominy is grains of corn with the outer hull removed. So omitting the hominy will not change the flavor of your finished dish. It will change the texture.

                        The "Instant Polenta" your SO bought is just that - instant. So follow the package instructions and disregard all the recipes here.

                        Once you have traditional polenta (aka medium to coarse cornmeal), you can cook it in a variety of ways. I've found that the easiest method is to whisk a cup of cornmeal with four cups of cold water and a big pinch of salt, then microwave in a large covered bowl on high for six minutes. Remove, whisk, and microwave on high for another six minutes. Let stand ten minutes, add cheese / butter / herbs, and you're good to go.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          In my mind, the most important thing is the quality/grind of the cornmeal itself. I use Bob's Red Mill "Corn Grits" http://www.bobsredmill.com/product.ph... with excellent results. I like the coarser grind, myself. Because good cornmeal tends to be non-degerminated, it does spoil like whole wheat flour does, though I find it ends up tasting more bland than "off" when it is old. Using Quaker cornmeal is guaranteed to produce indifferent results.

                          Cooking technique is in my experience not particularly important--I have used the stovetop, oven, and microwave with fine results.

                          I like using a 50/50 mixture of stock (chicken or veal) and water--about 4 cups total per cup of cornmeal. Generally will saute a little minced onion first. I am not shy with butter and pretty much always add a about 1/2 cup of grated Reggiano. Oh, and lots of salt.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Glad to see someone finally admit to cooking polenta in the microwave! My Italian mother-in-law started doing it that way about 25 years ago and converted me to that method. I have since converted many friends to using this no hassle way to make polenta... I'm going to try this dish with golden hominy & pancetta - it sounds sooo good to me...

                            1. re: RWCFoodie

                              The trick is to use a large enough bowl, so that it can rise, without over flowing. I have a large glass measuring cup (8 cups), that works for this. Though the only polenta that I've done in the microwave was a dessert one, where the sweetened mush is marbled with cooked berries.

                              1. re: paulj

                                You're so right - I use an 8 cup Pyrex handled measuring "cup". It's easy to grab the handle.

                          2. I like making polenta pizza or polenta bruschettas. Here's the recipe for the pizza:


                            I sometimes use milk instead of stock as it gives it more moisture and I add some garlic and herbs to the mix. The same recipe can be applied to make bruschettas but it's best to let the dough rest for a while in the fridge so it solidifies and becomes more bread-like. Good luck experimenting!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Paula76

                              There is a Roman version of polenta, actually called gnocchi, that uses semolina (hard wheat 'flour') and milk to make a polenta like mush. It is chilled, sliced, and baked with lots of butter and cheese. Using the proportions in this recipe it is quite rich.


                              1. re: paulj

                                Also great topped with gorgonzola cheese and then baked.

                            2. So I have Bob's Red Mill Medium Grind. I've tried to make polenta and corn bread from it, but the bigger pieces of cornmeal stay crunchy.

                              I've wondered of pre-soaking overnight would help reduce cooking time, like beans?

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: jaykayen

                                You might consider ordering from Anson Mills (www.ansonmills.com) and using their recipe.

                                Very good polenta...it's even the product used at my favorite Italian restaurant.

                                Not cheap...but fantastic flavor and mouth-feel.

                                1. re: Monch

                                  Thanks. Maybe next time. I see raves on the board. I'm trying to be able to do something with the corn I have right now.

                                2. re: jaykayen

                                  The 'medium grind' is good cornmeal, but too fine (in my mind) for nice polenta. Use the one labelled "corn grits (polenta)," which is quite coarse. Even with very coarse corn meal it should be tender after about 20 minutes or so--I think you probably didn't cook it long enough.

                                  As for using the medium grind in cornbread, you are right: It will be crunchy, which is not to everyone's taste. I have added some hot water and left it sit in the fridge overnight when making a yeast corn loaf, and it did attenuate the toothsomeness somewhat, though it was still pretty crunchy. If you are anti-crunch (or have guests with fragile dental work), I would recommend a finer grind of premium cornmeal.

                                  1. re: zamorski

                                    Thanks. Apparently, my local Ralphs (Safeway) carries Bob's Medium Grind, but not the Corn Grits (also known as Polenta). My local Whole Foods carries Bob's Corn Grits (Polenta) but not the Medium Grind corn meal.

                                    I think probably you're right about not cooking long enough. My mom's super good gas range's "low" setting is like my "5" out of 7 setting.

                                    1. re: jaykayen

                                      What water ratio did you use, and how long did you cook it?

                                    2. re: zamorski

                                      20 minutes? You're going to have some seriously undercooked polenta. It should cook for an absolute minimum of an hour.

                                  2. I just had the most amazing polenta fries recently at a local restaurant. I can't wait to duplicate at home, these were obviously deep fried (like a thick fries) but my son says I can easily fry in just little oil in a non-stick pan to get same affect. These were seasoned with I believe, garlic, rosemary, maybe parmasan. They obviously poured it into a rimmed cookie sheet and then cut it like big fries. They were really yummy

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                      A similar type of fry is often made with a chickpea 'polenta'.