In the Veneto and adjoining Friuli regions polenta is as essential to a meal as pasta or bread in other regions. It is a perfect accompaniment to the savory sauces of the regions’ many meat and seafood stews. Polenta is also delicious on its own with Gorgonzola, or butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It can be served either soft and steamy as soon as it is done, or in rectangular or triangular slabs that are cooled and then grilled or sometimes fried.
Polenta has a reputation for being labor intensive, demanding constant stirring for at least 40 minutes. Actually it’s possible to make excellent polenta that is far superior to “instant” polenta with only occasional stirring. Although it still needs to cook for 35 to 40 minutes, you are free to attend to other things. Use cornmeal imported from Italy, not because the corn is necessarily better but because the grind is coarser, which is best suited to polenta.
© 2005 Giuliano Hazan. All rights reserved.