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Most Creative Polenta

What is the most creative Polenta or use for polenta going beyond a plain polenta side dish you have come up with. I think it is an under utilized dish just curious what people have come up with.

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  1. Soft polenta with fresh corn and corn cream. When corn is in season, though I guess you could use frozen corn, I make soft polenta with cheddar and parmesan as well as some corn kernels. But the best part is taking the kernels off a few ears of corn, pureeing them in the processor and then straining just the liquid from that into the polenta. Turrns into a thick, sweet cream that makes the polenta to die for.

    2 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      sounds awesome! at what point do you add the cheese and the corn cream?

      1. re: ChristinaMason

        When you feel it is just about done, you want the cheese and corn cream to have about five minutes to meld. Then just pour it onto plates or shallow bowls and serve. Of course it could be a side dish but I make it a course in itself!

    2. Polenta with Hormel beanless chili on top. Tastes similar to a tamale.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Antilope

        I made something similar once. The combination of chili and cornmeal is killer!


        1. re: ChristinaMason

          It sure is! I sometimes bake chili with a cornmeal bread "crust". Using polenta as a base is another interesting approach for these two foods that love one another.

          PS I suspect beans + corn could combine to make a complete protein. Yep, did a quick google search and they do form a complete protein.

        2. re: Antilope

          Ooh, that's a great idea! I never would have thought of chili over polenta. Beef stew would be great too, I'll bet.

        3. Just found out that Nicole's, the French market in South Pasadena, has good polenta at a good price, so I'm going to do some next time I roast a duck, probably with braised kale. I think I'll not have it soft for this, but chill it, cut it up and fry it crisp on the surface.

          And if I get impatient for a good duck, I'll just do this with a pork roast instead.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Will Owen

            When you say good polenta at a good price, do you mean the corn meal that is used for polenta? I buy mine at the grocery store and it's plenty cheap....what is different about the kind you will get at Nicoloe's?

            1. re: escondido123

              Different grind, basically. She's got it fairly coarse, and a finer grind which is still not as fine as regular American cornmeal. I forget whether either of these is whole-grain, but I'll check before I buy. I have a box of Albers cornmeal that I use for cornbread, but it's too fine for the mush I'm looking for.

              Surfas in Culver City has a wider range of polenta, but that's about 25 miles and an hour away.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Dont' bother making a major trip. I just went through all of me older, classic Italian cookbooks==inculding Bugialli--and they all just sprecify "corn meal" for their polentas. I guess the biggest question would be yellow or white.

                1. re: escondido123

                  I insist on making the trip; I've made mush with regular supermarket cornmeal and it's much too fine. I used that when I was doing my scrapple experiment, and that was one of the two things wrong with the result. Polenta is supposed to have some texture, like steelcut oatmeal. Those "older, classic" cookbooks call for cornmeal because when they were published that was all that was available here. It's like those '50s Chinese recipes that call for sherry.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    WO, i know most of us don't really mind having an excuse to head to Surfas, but you know you can save yourself the trip & order from them online, right? given the price of gas these days and the amount of time you can waste sitting in traffic, paying for shipping might be a worthwhile expense:

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      That's what I was going to suggest but then you don't get to wander the aisles sampling olive oils and vinegars and ending up spending waaaaaaaaay too much money. ;>

                    2. re: Will Owen

                      When you say polenta should have some texture, is this a personal preference, or an Italian standard? I've seen references to fine, medium, and coarse ground polenta (or to picky, corn for polenta).


            2. I like to make polenta, preferably with cheese, and pour it into a baking dish. I let it set up a bit, while I finish the rest of the dish: meats, vegetables, sometimes a light sauce, or cheese, and then I bake it. Some of my favorites (in different combinations) are sausage, spinach, mushrooms, sliced or chopped tomatoes (tomato and polenta are especially good together), mashed beans (I use either white or black), and sauteed onions and peppers. I usually top it with additional cheese.

              A poached or fried egg or two is also really good on polenta, especially if you crumbles some ham or bacon into the polenta, and make sure to season the cornmeal with some cayenne.

              Roasted garlic, thoroughly mixed with the cooking liquid used in the polenta is also nice.

              1. How about flavoring it with molasses and butter, and baking it long and slow (Indian pudding)?

                Or with eggs, fresh corn, and baked (spoon bread)?

                Italians sweeten it, stir in fruit and eat it for supper or breakfast. Another Italian dish adds chopped cabbage and beans to the polenta (polenta 'in-chains').

                17 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  I'm sensing that people use the term polenta and cornmeal as if they were the same thing--when they aren't.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    What's the difference? Other than country?

                    As I understand it, polenta is a broad Italian term for porridge, that in the past has been made from wheat and other grains and chestnuts, though corn is now the most common base. Italians may also prefer their local flint corn for the purpose, but that's no reason to say polenta and cornmeal mush aren't the same thing.

                    1. re: paulj

                      My question was why people were calling cornmeal and polenta the same thing--note I did not include the word "mush" in there. I agree that cornmeal mush and polenta are the same thing, but that is not what people typed.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        In Italian, are there separate words for the ground corn, and the cooked porridge?

                        1. re: paulj

                          farina di granoturco is Italian for corn meal.......and that is something you use to make polenta and other dishes both sweet and savory.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            Is this Mario Batali recipe for Polenta Dolce a problem?
                            He uses "quick-cooking polenta (use yellow or white)"

                            Here's a polenta dolce recipe (in Italian) that uses 'farina di granoturco'

                            In American usage, polenta refers both to cornmeal, and its use in an Italian style dish. Sometimes the raw 'polenta' is coarser than cornmeal commonly used for cornbread, in which case may also be called 'grits'. The terminology isn't very consistent, and makes people think there are differences that really aren't there. We are just too lazy to say 'cornmeal for polenta'.

                            1. re: paulj

                              I have a box of hominy grits in my frig. Next to it is a box of yellow corn meal. They don't look the same or taste the same---they are not the same thing. As to the use of the word "polenta" to describe the corn meal used to make polenta, that appears to be a pretty new approach to selling finely ground corn meal to people who want to make polenta by calling it "polenta." But you feel free to call it what you want and I'll do the same. No need to argue about it.

                        2. re: escondido123

                          It's hard for me to tell exactly what you're getting at. And it's also confusing when you say "people" instead of citing a specific example. Can you clarify what you take issue with, and how you believe the terms should be used correctly? Not trying to be argumentative, so I hope I am not coming off as such!

                          1. re: operagirl

                            I asked my Italian husband about this issue. He said the dry stuff in the box called "Instant Polenta" has in fact been processed--much like instant rice--so it is more like dried polenta than the corn meal you would use to make polenta the slow way.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              Instant polenta? Never seen that one.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Interesting that Batalli would suggest it on his Food Network recipes yet at his restaurant, the line chefs say they cook polenta for 3 hours!

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      You didn't mean to reply to me, did you? But I can't imagine cooking polenta for three hours. Holey moley.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I know it is amazing. I've tried cooking corn meal for an hour versus for 20 minutes and I really haven't seen a big difference. But 3 hours....maybe it becomes ambrosia!

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          If it's regular cornmeal that normally requires 40 minutes, you get better hydration if you continue to cook it much longer. I've done this in an improvised double boiler, adding water if it gets too stiff. I end up with a 5:1 water ratio.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            I do a 6:1 ratio in the oven (thanks, thew) and it takes about 30-40 minutes. That's for creamy.

                    2. I like using polenta under stew. Last week I made a beef stew (lots of red wine, rosemary etc, and sweet potatoes instead of regular), and I served it on top of soft, creamy polenta. I made the polenta with chicken broth and water, and then flavored it with a bunch of crumbled Cambozola cheese and then salt, pepper, and a dash of cream at the end.

                      1. While creamy polenta is one of my absolute favorites foods, a restaurant we hit a few times a year has a great fried one. They saute' slices of Italian sausage, sliced garlic, tomato in a relatively small amount of olive oil. They cut wedges of polenta and fry til just a little brown. That goes into a pasta bowl, the sausage combo goes on that and then some toasted pine nuts and basil. Freshly grated Parm. I wind up ordering it every time I'm there and keep saying I'm going to fix it at home.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: c oliver

                          that sounds really good. i have a sausage fennel ragout recipe that I bet would be killer on top of polenta as you described!

                        2. my favorite savory preparation is probably topped with a hearty mushroom ragout, but don't forget sweet preparations - paulJ already mentioned Indian Pudding (love it).

                          for a change of pace and different consistency, whip up a batch of polenta without adding any cheese, chill until firm, slice, and grill, broil or pan-fry the slices until slightly crisp & golden on the outside. top with various goodies for breakfast or dessert: lightly sweetened ricotta or yogurt; fruit compote; a drizzle of chocolate sauce or fruit sauce...you can even spread the slices with nut butter and preserves, or dip them in chocolate ganache.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Broil ( without cheese) and serve under fig/pear/old balsalmic vinegar compote with a dollop of creme fraiche.

                          2. Mm, I use coarser ground corn for polenta and serve it up the way my Neapolitan dad's family did, which was to pour out the cooked polenta onto a board and top it with sausages cooked in a rich spicy tomato sauce. His big family gathered around the table and dug in, forks only, no plates required. Since we are just two, we use plates. Other times, I cook polenta, pour it into a loaf pan, chill, slice and saute in olive oil until crispy, and top with a mixed mushroom and tomato ragu. Occasionally, I fry the slices, top with fontina and a fried egg. Serve with grilled bread. Roast pork with fennel on a bed of soft polenta is great.

                            Add in's? Parmesan, Pecorino, Mascarpone, Fontina, Gorgonzola, heavy cream, herbs.

                            I've served it fried in wedges topped with pesto, mixed with ricotta and eggs and layered with Swiss Chard and baked, or soft under sauteed broccoli rabe with a simple roast chicken.

                            Maybe due to my heritage, or maybe for another reason, I find polenta as comforting as potatoes, rice or pasta.

                            1. I cannot remember what my grandmother called this version of polenta, but it was an accompaniment to all hearty soups, especially in cold weather. I just call it baked polenta and I dont have a precise recipe. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease a 9 inch pie plate with good olive oil. Put 3-4 cups polenta in a mixing bowl and season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix the polenta with boiling water until it is smooth and pourable..the consistency of a medium to thick white sauce perhaps. Put the polenta into the prepared pie plate and drizzle with a bit more olive oil and bake until it is brown and crispy, top and bottom and can easily be lifted with a spatula. Cut into wedges and serve with your soup or stew. It is crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Ultra simple and ultra satisfying. Polenta also makes great croutons for a salad..cooked and chilled, cubed, dusted with flour and sauted in olive oil or butter.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: grammywheels

                                i make croutons or soup floaters as well... just spread cooked polenta out in a sheet pan, chill it, cut into cubes then broil. great in warm or cold soups.

                                the broiled cubes are good for fondue dipping as well.

                                you can also spread it very thinly in a sheet pan and bake it til basically all the moisture is gone. cut and serve with dip, as crackers.

                                you can use it to make a pizza crust of sorts.

                                substitute firmed slices for the bread in a french toast strata (but prep without cheese, instead use milk, maple syrup, cinnamon and some lemon or orange zest, then chill and use).

                                mexican polenta casserole - pre cooked polenta slices alternated with a meat sauce (onions, garlic, sweet peppers, ground turkey/beef, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, oregano, beans), cilantro, cheeses, then baked. serve with salsa and sour cream if desired.

                                Cake! here's a nice one... http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                              2. Stretching the definition of polenta bit a Roman Gnocchi, which is polenta like porridge made with semolina (wheat), chilled, cut into squares, and baked with a generous topping of butter and cheese.

                                And a chickpea porridge can be chilled, cut up and fried (either as french fry like sticks, or squares to used in a sandwich , Panelle di Palermo).

                                1. I made some this week with leftover parm and manchego added in at the end. I topped it with leftover Boeuf Bourguinon. It was magical.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: LaureltQ

                                    i love it, Laurel - only a true Hound would just *happen* to have leftover Parm, Manchego and Boeuf Bourguignon on hand ;)

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      Packing that boeuf bourguinon in leftover quart yogurt containers instead of my regular clear plastic restaurant-supply numbers in a red-wine induced haze was the best decision I've made recently. It kept my hubby from raiding them for his lunch (nobody wants yogurt for lunch) and I didn't even find them until 4 days after the dish had been made. We ate a quart and the rest went into the freezer for a 'rainy day.'

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        I usually eat the stew with rice, but this polenta rocked my world. It added a whole new complexity of flavor to the dish. I can't even begin to describe the transformation it underwent atop this cheese-studded cornmeal mash. OH MY!

                                        1. re: LaureltQ

                                          re: the yogurt containers, gotta love happy accidents :)

                                          polenta has always been my preferred starch for hearty braised or stewed dishes like that. you can get creative and decadent with the cheese too - mascarpone, fontina, gruyere, gorgonzola...

                                        2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          When I make Peposo, the peppery beef shank stew, polenta is my starch of choice.

                                          But for my latest shank stew, flavored with Hungarian paprika, I'll probably make spaetzle. However since I saw Lydia making spaetzle the other day, I guess it would be ok the mix and match stew and starches. :) http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/de...

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            ooh, I like the sound of that stew. please share the recipe!

                                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                                              One of several Peposo recipes - the simplest as made by tile makers in their kilns

                                      2. Soft polenta with garlic rappini, tomato sauce with garlic and browned sausage is one of my all time favorite dishes. Polenta is the center of it, taking on different flavors depending on what you pair it with in each bite. From creamy to acid to garlic to meat it all goes together in great ways.

                                        1. I like cooking it with a little too little liquid, adding a bunch of flavorful cheese, then spreading it out on a baking sheet and chilling. Then I cut it into "fries", dip in seasoned flour, and pan fry them. They end up crispy on the outside and if done correctly, light and fluffy (as fluffy as polenta can be) on the inside.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: LaureltQ

                                            I'll run this by the folks at the next Weight Watchers meeting.

                                          2. i know this is an old thread, and i checked another one that asked about the differences between polenta and cornmeal, and i know that cornmeal is ground finer than polenta. Have people had experience making creamy polenta with just regular american cornmeal? i'm looking for the gruel-like texture, not stiff. i've looked at several recipes that incorporate either cream or cream cheese. using regular cornmeal, would i just use more liquid? less?

                                            i'm planning on serving it with a very light tomato sauce that's been infused with guanciale, with guanciale bits over the top. the sauce i'll make with fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil that has been infused with garlic and basil (smittenkitchen fresh tomato sauce recipe.)

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                              Polenta does not have to use coarse cornmeal.
                                              " In some regions the yellow cornmeal used is very finely ground, while in other regions it is coarse, and in some others two kinds of polenta are blended. Sometimes yellow or white cornmeal mixed with buckwheat is used, and sometimes with a bit of semolina. The procedures employed to prepare polenta do not vary much. What varies is the thickness of the final product, according to how and with what polenta is going to be served"

                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                  For the record, CORN grits (as opposed to HOMINY grits) are perfectly suited to cooking as polenta. I had thought that all "grits" were made from nixtamalized corn, so was disappointed when I bought and cooked some fancy stoneground corn grits and discovered otherwise. Further giving away the plot is that I have both those Red Mule corn grits and some Bob's Big Red Mill coarse cornmeal, which is labelled "or POLENTA", and when cooked they are pretty much identical in taste and texture.

                                                  So I'm not going to bother with no damn fancy, overpriced polenta, especially since the stoneground stuff is typically whole grain. And delicious.

                                                  Cook polenta. Stir in shredded Fontina cheese. Put into bowls, top with freshly braised cavolo nero (dragon kale). Probably not right now; wait for chilly weather.

                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    it came out perfect, by the way, texture-wise. i used cream cheese, which was yummy, but next time i'll try Fontina or Parm.

                                            2. It seems to me that the Mexican restaurant sweet corn cakes can be a type of polenta. Here's my recipe for a microwave version of this dish.

                                              Microwave Mexican Restaurant Sweet Corn Cakes

                                              Makes 6 cups, 12 servings - On table in 15-minutes

                                              Copy Cat Recipe. I wanted a quick recipe to copy the sweet corn cakes (Mexican spoon bread) that are served at Mexican restaurants like El Torito and Chi Chi's. This is ready to eat in about 15 minutes. If you don't have masa harina flour on hand, you can add an additional 1/4 cup of yellow cornmeal, but the masa harina flour adds the authentic taste to this dish. For a less sweet dish, reduce granulated sugar to 1/3 cup. For a firmer sweet corn cake, microwave an additional 3-minutes.

                                              If you've never had these at a Mexican restaurant, they are similar to a firm, sweet, grits or polenta, with a corn tortilla flavor.
                                              The corn tortilla flavor comes from the masa harina flour.


                                              1 cup yellow cornmeal
                                              1/4 cup masa harina flour
                                              1/2 cup granulated sugar
                                              1 tablespoon baking powder
                                              1/4 teaspoon salt

                                              2 cups milk
                                              2 cups water
                                              1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
                                              1 egg, beaten
                                              4 tablespoons butter, melted


                                              Stir all dry ingredients together in mixing bowl, mix well and set aside until needed.
                                              Mix all wet ingredients together in another bowl. Stir until well mixed.
                                              Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir out any dry lumps in batter.

                                              Pour into a 3-quart covered, microwaveable casserole dish.

                                              Cover and microwave on high for 6-minutes.

                                              Stir well. Stir bottom and sides of dish well to remove any dry lumps.

                                              Cover and microwave on high for another 6-minutes.

                                              Stir a few times and serve warm using an ice cream scoop or disher.

                                              This gets thicker as it cools and reaches room temperature. If you want a more
                                              gritty sweet corn cake, use polenta corn meal instead of regular corn mea