Italian Recipe: The Best Polenta EVER!


Recentemente ho avuto l’occasione di assaggiare quella che considero tra i migliori piatti di polenta che abbia mai mangiato. Translation: I recently had the chance to taste what I consider to be among the best polenta dishes I have ever eaten.


It was simple yet succulent. In fact, I can still recall its smooth taste and the delicate flavors of the herbs used in making it. It really was melt-in-your-mouth good (the kind of stuff that, if you’re gonna make it, you’dPolenta Italian Recipe better invite a lot of people, or later you’ll finish the rest off standing at the kitchen counter alone!)


Per fortuna (Luckily), not only do I know the person who made this lovely polenta, la cuoca (the cook) Poppy (aka Papavera) is a student of mine and has generously agreed to share her recipe! Che allegria! (What happiness!)


But first, before I bestow the recipe upon you, a little history on polenta. Polenta is truly an Italian national dish and may have a history much more ancient than either pizza or pasta.


Especially popular and abundant in the North, and dubbed by some as ‘Italian grits’, polenta shares similarities to the hominy grits so popular in the Southern United States. Both are ‘mush’ type foods that originated as a staple to impoverished populations.  However, what would later be called polenta in Italy, was in ancient times one of the earliest and simplest foods made from various types of grains other than corn. First made from wild grains and later from primitive wheat, faro (a popular Italian grain), millet, spelt or chickpeas, the grain was mixed with water to form a paste and then cooked on a hot stone.


Polenta was still very popular in Roman times (known as pulmentum) and eaten either in a porridge or in a hard cake-like form, much like today. And still later it was made from buckwheat introduced into Italy by the Saracens.


The nutritive grain buckwheat, or ‘grano saraceno’, is still popular in Tuscany for making polenta because of its distinctive flavor, and it was widely favored for centuries. However, sometime in the 15th or 16th centuries a new crop know as maize arrived from the New World, and Buckwheat polenta began losing its popularity to this grain. It was  a perfect crop for the farms of Northern Italy, and landowners were able to grow vast fields of corn for profit, while the the peasantry subsisted on cornmeal.


While this new version of polenta was abundant, it was much less nutritious than earlier forms of the dish. But because cornmeal polenta is so tasty and filling, it remained a staple long after conditions improved for the poor. And amazingly, a simple act of greed on the part of landowners was a key ingredient in shaping an important component of Italian cooking. Since then, most of Italy’s polenta consumption has been from corn, ranging  in color from golden yellow to the white polenta of Veneto.


E addesso, la ricetta. (And now, the recipe.) I am presenting it in English. {Basic food words in Italian and equivalent metric measurements are in brackets.}

Herbal Polenta with Parmigiano Reggiano

  • > 1 32-ounce container fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth {907 ml brodo di pollo}
  • > 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary {2,5 gr rosmarino fresco tritato}
  • > 1 tablespoon butter {15 gr burro}
  • > 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper {1,5 gr pepe nero macinato}
  • > 1/4 teaspoon salt {1 gr sale}
  • > 1 cup yellow corn meal {360 gr polenta}
  • > 1/2 cup grated fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese {90 gr formaggio parmigiano reggiano}
  • > 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley {10 gr prezzemolo fresco tritato}
Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
{In una pentola grande fare bollire su fiamma media i primi cinque ingredienti.}
Gradually add cornmeal, stirring constantly with a whisk.  {Aggiungere gradualmente la polenta, girando continuamente con un frullino.} Cook 3 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. {Cuocere per tre minuti o finche’ diventi spesso e fa bolle.} Remove from heat; stir in cheese and parsley.  {Togliere dalla fiamma; quindi aggiungere il formaggio e il prezzemolo mescolando bene.}
Pour the hot polenta into a glass (pyrex type) baking pan and eat warm. {Versare la polenta  in una pirofila di vetro e servire calda.}
Yield: 6 (2/3 cup) {Dosi per 6 persone}

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Italian Recipe: The Best Polenta EVER!

  1. Giada (aka Susanna) says:

    Jodina, enjoyed the history of polenta, growing up in Berkeley, CA polenta many, many years ago, it was not polular; now it is a delicatezza and one will find it on many fine Italian dinings. Mi nona used to say that the grains were for the poor people, just as mentioned in the article.

    My favorite recetta is Biscotti (Il Fornaio), sempre in Natale.
    2 1/2 cups flour
    1 tea poon baking powder
    1/ 4 tsp salt
    2 tbs anise seeds
    1 1/2 cup slice raw almonds
    1/4 pound butter
    3 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 tsp almond extract

    Mix flour, baking powder, salt, anise and almonds. (set aside) Beat butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time and then add extracts. Gradually beat in flour. Batter will be stiff and sticky.
    with a large spoon (or clean hands) take 1/4 of dough and put onto floured board and roll into a 12 inch log. (you may flatten depending oh how you like your biscott. The place on cookie sheet. Repeat process.
    Bake in pre-heated 375 oven for 18 minutes or unitl lightly brown. Cool on cookie sheet 10-minutes, then remove to cutting board.
    Cut bars into 1/2 in slices and place back on cookie sheet. Bake 5 minutees on one side, turn over and bake 5 minutes on the other.
    Cool completely before storing
    Boun appettio

  2. Nancy says:

    We love polenta too! And here’s a way to use it in a recipe that we enjoy.


    1 pound mild Italian sausage, cut into bite size pieces
    1/4 pound pancetta (or bacon), cut up
    1/4 cup finely chopped onion
    1/8 cup red or green pepper
    1/4 chopped carrot
    1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, 1 cup water
    1/2 cup dry red wine
    1 bay leaf

    Brown pancetta sausage and onion in a pan, add carrots and peppers, cooking until tender. Add tomato sauce, wine, water, bay leaf. Simmer gently uncovered for about 30 minutes. If sauce gets too thick add more water. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Serve over polenta (we like serving it over fried or broiled polenta as an appetizer).

  3. admin says:

    I have had this hearty, tasty polenta cooked by you — e’ buonissimo.
    Grazie per aver condiviso questa ricetta!

  4. admin says:

    Ciao Giada–
    sono contenta che ti e’ piaciuta la ricetta e la storia di polenta.
    E’ grazie per condividere la ricetta per i biscotti — la voglio provare!
    Ti vedro’ uno di questi giorni al gruppo di studio? Spero di si 🙂

  5. Valerie says:

    Sembra che tutti i post che ho letto oggi parlato di cibo. Ora, ho molta fame! Grazie per le ricette! Valerie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *