Knowing how to make polenta allows you to add a number of frugal and delicious dishes to your repertoire.
What Is Polenta?
Polenta is most often made from corn, although it can be made from semolina and other grains as well. It is usually more coarsely ground that cornmeal and one brand may have coarser or finer grinds than another brand. You may need to try several to find the one that you like best. Stone-ground cornmeal works just as well.
The ground corn is cooked in water or stock until it forms a thick mush, similar to grits. The polenta takes an hour to completely cook. It must be stirred frequently during this time. After it is cooked it is ready to be used in your recipe. This versatile cereal can then be used for a number of breakfast, lunch, or dinner dishes; both sweet and savory.
This dish is traditional to Northern Italy where it is possibly more popular than pasta. Once it is cooked it can be used in a number of ways, including having a sauce ladled over the top or being formed and cooled in bread pans and then sliced and fried.
How to Make Polenta in a Crockpot
Polenta can be started in the morning before you leave for the day and be ready for you when you get home. There is really nothing easier than making polenta in a crockpot.
- 8 cups boiling water or vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups coarse ground cornmeal or polenta grains
- Oil the inside of the crockpot and turn to high
- Carefully pour in the water
- Stir in the salt, butter, and cornmeal
- Cook on high for one hour, stir and turn to low
- Continue to cook for seven hours
Makes about eight cups of basic polenta.
Making Polenta On Top of the Stove
Knowing how to make polenta on top of the stove means that you can have it finished in less than an hour. It is the quicker method but you will need to be there to stir it often. Be sure to stir from the bottom so it doesn't stick and scorch.
- 8 cups water or stock
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups coarse ground cornmeal or polenta
- Oil the inside of your cooking pot
- Add the water or stock and bring to a boil
- Add the salt and butter; stir until the butter is melted
- Stir in the polenta carefully in a steady stream to keep it from clumping
- Turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover
- Simmer, stirring every five minutes for 10 to 20 minutes or until it is done to your liking
One of the many variations on polenta is frying it. This not only adds flavor but it adds a different texture as well. This is a great way to deal with any leftover polenta you may have.
- Just take the cooked polenta and spoon it in an oiled bread pan, pressing down firmly.
- Allow to cool in the refrigerator overnight.
- The next day the polenta will have turned into a firm loaf.
- Turn the loaf out carefully and cut it into thick slices.
- Fry in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet until golden brown on all sides.
The fried polenta can be sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, drizzled with maple syrup, or used as a base for almost any sauce.
Cereals and grains are staples of the vegetarian diet. Knowing how to cook polenta is a good way to expand your menu with a frugal and versatile ingredient. Without the addition of cheese or other dairy products polenta is also a frugal vegan meal.