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How to Cook Italian

How to Cook Italian

By Giuliano Hazan

Published 2005

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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.


  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal, preferably imported from Italy


  1. Put the water in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the salt to the boiling water and lower the heat to medium. Pour in the cornmeal in a thin, steady stream, while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring steadily for 2 minutes after all the cornmeal has been added, then cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir again for 2 minutes, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Repeat a third time. Do not be concerned if a thin layer of cornmeal sticks to the bottom of the pan. After the third time, stir for 3 to 4 minutes. The polenta is done when it forms a mass that separates easily from the sides of the pot when stirred. Serve hot.