Once considered a peasant dish, Polenta now pops up on elegant menus around the world. Extremely low-fat and filling, with a mellow flavor, polenta is a flexible kitchen staple no chef should be without.
A Cinderella Story
Much like quinoa, polenta started out as the go-to grain for the lower-classes. While many European countries have been making similar porridges for centuries, cornmeal-based polenta began in Italy and has a uniquely creamy texture.
Before long, top chefs started noticing that polenta has limitless potential–it can be cooked using a variety of techniques and can be combined with any number of foods. With the power to transform into a beautiful dish in under an hour (no fairy godmother necessary), polenta quickly became the belle of the culinary ball.
Po-lenty of Options (Sorry, we couldn’t resist)
Usually, polenta is used in savory dishes. Delightful combinations are limited only by your imagination. Popular pairings include cheese, mushrooms, poultry, lentils, sausage, and even sweet fruits like plums (yes, plums. And trust us, the combo is amazing). What cooks add to polenta has changed with the times–you won’t find any Italian songbirds in most polentas today–but the polenta base has stayed pretty much the same.
What’s In It For Me?
Polenta is high in complex carbs, making it exceptionally filling, yet also very low in fat, with zero saturated fats. It is also high in protein, boosting your energy and nourishing your body. Oh, and it tastes fantastic. The flavor profile is a little buttery like grits, silky, and rich.
How Do I Make At At Home?
Polenta comes in two primary forms: Loose cornmeal, which is best for creating porridge-type consistencies, and solid tubes (which are more concentrated with water and polenta formed into sausage-like packages), which are best for creating baked and fried polenta cakes. We use both types for different Home Chef recipes, but for loose cornmeal, follow these five simple steps for gourmet-quality polenta in a snap.
- Create your flavor base: Heat up a couple tbsp. of olive oil and the spices of your choice in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Boil water: Add 4 cups of water for every cup of polenta you’re using and bring to boil over high heat.
- Whisk in polenta: Slow and steady, and reduce heat to low once the polenta becomes creamy.
- Warm: Over low heat for 5-8 minutes (add 5 minutes for every additional cup of polenta).
- Stir in the extras: Remote from heat and stir in 2 Tbsp. of butter, along with whatever other foods you want in your dish.
That’s it! You’ve just made polenta. You can stop after this step, or take it to the next level by trying your hand at frying, baking, or grilling it into cakes and fries (which are incredible).
Want Some Now?
Yeah, us, too. And we’re all in luck, because polenta is on this week’s menu! Take a crack at making gourmet polenta at home, with our Home Chef Sicilian-Style Turkey Meatballs. They’re nestled atop Parmesan polenta, so it’s pretty much the most delish thing you’ll ever eat.