Basic polenta

Alto Adige, Lombardia, Piemonte, Veneto, Fruili Venezia Guilia

Antonio Carluccio says “my mother always used to make up a large batch of polenta, half of which was eaten immediately whilst still hot, and the rest kept in the larder ready to use when cold.  The latter was then cut into slices, which were fried in butter or oil or grilled until crisp on each side.  This was used to accompany meat dishes.  Or it was broken into pieces and mixed together with tomato sauce, melting cheese and Parmesan, then baked in the oven until everything had melted together”.

serves 8

1.7litres (3 pints) salted water

300g (10 oz) polenta flour, or 1 x 370g (13 oz) packet of bramata or instant polenta

55g (2 oz) butter

To finish

2 tbsp olive oil (for grilling) or a nut of butter or 4 tbsp olive oil (for frying)

Bring the salted water to the boil. Very carefully add the polenta flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon so that no lumps appear.  You must continue to stir the polenta until you see that it starts to come away from the side of the saucepan.  This will take only 5 minutes if you are using instant polenta, 30-40 minutes if you are using polenta flour or the classic bramata polenta.  Now add the butter and stir in.  Serve hot as an accompaniment, or leave to set by pouring onto a board, then cut into slices and grill or fry.

For the latter, rinse a deep rectangular dish with water, then pour the cooked polenta in and leave to set.  When set, turn the polenta out on to a board and cut into 2cm (¾ in) thick slices (or use a metal wire that usually cuts cheese).

To grill, brush each slice with olive oil. Put under the preheated grill until it browns a little and forms a crust.  To get nice criss-cross designs on the polenta, use a cast-iron griddle pan.

To fry, heat the oil or butter in a thick-bottomed pan.  When hot, fry the slices of polenta on both sides until crisp and brown.

Polenta with mushroom sauce and radicchio di Treviso

Polenta Concia (flavoured polenta)

serves 4

1.7litres (3 pints) salted water

300g (10 ½ oz) polenta flour, or 1 x 375g (13 oz)
packet of bramata or instant polenta

115g (4 oz) butter

115g (4 oz) Parmesan, freshly grated

115g (4 oz) fontina cheese, cut into chunks

This flavoured polenta makes a delicious accompaniment to a stew of chicken, hare or beef, but it is tempting to eat it by itself.

Make the polenta (see separate recipe), stirring until it starts to come away from the sides of the saucepan.  When this happens, add the butter, the grated Parmesan and the chunks of fontina, stirring all the time until you see that all the ingredients have melted and are thoroughly mixed with the polenta.  Serve directly on to heated plates with your own choice of stew or sauce.

Recipes that will go well with polenta include Goulash, mushroom sauce and squid in their own ink.


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