Have you ever tried polenta instead of bread when eating a warm stew, fish or grilled meat? These are classics, so your answer could be YES. But we'd love to suggest you other very interesting ways to enjoy your polenta (be it homemade or tubed polenta).
Once upon a time, my grandmother was the only person in the family who made polenta. She was the best at stirring and stirring the creamy polenta, while adding cornmeal gradually, then leaving it to cook on the stove on low heat. She always made set polenta, then she placed it on a chopping board by turning the cooking pot upside down (she used a billycan), letting it cool a little, then slicing it with a cotton thread. If you want to try this, you should stretch the cotton thread between the chopping board and the polenta, then cut the polenta into thick slices by lifting the thread, so the polenta gets cut by its own weight.
When my grandma passed away, my aunt and my mother took over the task of making polenta. Then, when I moved away from my parents' house, I started to experiment with homemade polenta too. I must admit things are not the same, because we have access to instant cornmeal now and we can whip up a pot of polenta in about half an hour. We can also buy already precooked polenta, called tubed polenta, from the grocery store.
To make polenta, add water in a saucepan and sprinkle some salt. Bring the water to a boil and add cornmeal gradually. Whisk and, when it gets thicker, mix it with a spoon. You can make soft or creamy polenta, depending on the cornmeal quantity you add. For making soft polenta, you can also use butter or parmesan.
How to eat polenta different ways
1. Grilled polenta
It does not matter if you opt for homemade polenta or tubed polenta. You can slice it or cut it into cubes, then grill it. If you like polenta this way, you’ll notice that it adds a smoky note to your meal. You can either put in on the grill alongside other foods or add it to skewers. You can serve it instead of bread, with any kind of meat, grilled vegetables, stews, sunny-side-up eggs, mushrooms, bacon, and cheese.
2. Polenta muffins
Polenta muffins are great on their own as a savory snack or used instead of croutons when you have soup. You can make the polenta as you always do or you can use some milk, just make sure you get a soft polenta. When ready, combine it with cheese, broccoli, paprika, seeds, cooked mushrooms, spring onion, olives or another ingredient, then spoon the mixture into a lightly greased muffin tray and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the tray. You can serve the muffins warm or cold.
3. Polenta fries
Slice polenta into fries or wedges, place them on a parchment paper-lined baking tray, brush with olive oil and sprinkle your favorite spices and herbs over. Bake for about 30-45 minutes, flipping the polenta halfway through the baking time. You can serve it with grated parmesan or a dip (get more inspiration from here).
4. Polenta canapés
A canapé is a type of hors d’œuvre, a small, prepared and usually decorative food, consisting of a small piece of bread, puff pastry, or a cracker topped with some savory food, held with your fingers and often eaten in one bite.
Polenta works incredibly fine for this type of finger food. Cut the polenta into small bites and top them with mushrooms, cheese, dried or grilled tomatoes, fish pieces, ham, salami, fried bacon, pesto or another spread.
5. Microwaved polenta
If you want a homemade polenta but you feel lazy, you still have an option: microwaved polenta. A quick bowl of polenta is perfect for breakfast. The creamy and nutty taste of instant cornmeal makes a great combo with the sweetness of the milk. All you need is instant cornmeal, milk, olive oil, salt, and water. It’ll be ready in less than 10 minutes!
6. Polenta pizza
Yes, it's doable! Just make a soft polenta, line a baking tray with parchment paper, then spread the polenta on it using a spoon. You can top it with anything you like before moving it to the oven. Choose from pancetta, baby spinach, bell pepper, mushrooms, arugula, eggs, tomatoes, but don’t forget to add mozzarella.