Polenta – Italian Comfort Food

on December 9, 2020

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It snowed today – which means, polenta for dinner!

It is an Italian tradition, that you serve polenta with the arrival of the first snowfall.

I remember the first time I saw our table set for polenta in Bologna.  My grandmother would make a big fuss! She put lots of work and effort in preparing different sauces like Bolognese ragout (sauce), roasted quail and vegetables to enjoy with it.  Our wooden kitchen table became the platter for the polenta.  It looked so impressive as it reminded me of a medieval king’s table.

My other grandmother, Livia, who was from the Abruzzo region of Italy served her polenta more of a rustic style, with a traditional tomato sauce with sausage.  From this region of Italy, you must have sausage on your polenta.

Polenta is made from ground yellow or white cornmeal (maize). It dates back to Roman times originally made with farro, millet, spelt, or chickpeas.  With the arrival of maize in Italy from the “New World” at the end of the 15th century polenta, as it is now known, took on its current recipe.  Originating in the Friuli section of Italy, it was cooked in large copper pots called “paiolo.”

Polenta is a slow cooked dish taking over an hour to make and must be constantly stirred.  Today we have alternatives to reduce the cooking and stirring time thanks to instant brands and in a tube ready to eat. Cooked polenta can be shaped into balls, patties or sticks and fried, baked, or grilled.

Polenta is delicious served with cheeses (gorgonzola), butter, tomato sauce, and brown gravies. It is also wonderful with roasted quail and other fowl, mushrooms (porcini), sausages, vegetables, and roasted meats.

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