Polenta is made from cornmeal, coarse or fine, and for the recipes in this book is cooked in stock or water. Debates rage over whether polenta should be of thick or thin texture but it’s really a question of what it is going to be used for. If it is to be sauced with a mushroom ragout, for example, it should be on the thick side. As a bed for grilled little birds, it should be thinner.

The apotheosis of polenta is a version with mascarpone and white truffles, such as I have served at Stars. There is a beautiful photograph of this dish in Giuliano Bugialli’s book Foods of Italy.

Polenta can be kept in a double boiler for hours. If it thickens too much, add more stock or water. Leftovers can be grilled or fried.


  • 4 quarts chicken stock or water
  • 4 cups yellow cornmeal, coarse-ground
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter


Bring the stock or water to a rolling boil. Pour in the cornmeal very gradually in a steady stream. Passing it through a sieve works well. Vigorously whisk the liquid and cornmeal together until all the cornmeal is incorporated and there are no lumps.

Then use a wooden spoon to stir constantly and scrape around the bottom corners of the pot where the polenta will try to stick and burn.

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and constantly, for 45 minutes. Taste for salt, stir in the butter, and hold in a double boiler until needed.