Have You Met Polenta?

Polenta tubes are a staple in our pantry. My husband likes to use it for a quick snack or for his lunches. I like to use it instead of pasta in some recipes. If you haven’t met Polenta, you are missing out. 

Polenta is made from cooked cornmeal, making it gluten-free. It can be made with white or yellow corn; yellow is the most often seen. It was considered peasant food in Northern & Central Italy but is now a delicacy. I have seen it called “Italian Grits”.  Before the 16th century, polenta was made with spelt, rye or buckwheat. In the 16th century, corn was exported from America to European countries. It was at this time that polenta was made from corn. If you are interested in a more detailed history of polenta: Italy Heritage, traditional foods: Polenta 

Polenta is very easy to make. 1 cup of cornmeal will make about 3+ cups of polenta. Here is a basic recipe from Cooking Lessons from the Kitchen.

How To Make Creamy Stovetop Polenta , Makes about 4 cups

What You Need

Ingredients …Instead of butter or cheese you can add herbs for flavor.
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 cup cheese (optional)
1-3 tablespoons butter (optional)

Equipment
2- to 3-quart pot with lid
Whisk
Long handled spoon or sturdy spatula

Instructions

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Bring the water to a brisk boil over medium-high heat. Add the salt.
  2. Pour the polenta into the boiling water. While whisking gently, pour the polenta into the boiling water in a steady stream.
  3. Continue whisking until polenta is thickened. Turn down the heat to low and continue whisking until the polenta has thickened enough that it doesn’t settle back on the bottom of the pan when you stop stirring.
  4. Cook the polenta 30-40 minutes. Cover the polenta and continue cooking. Stir vigorously every 10 minutes or so, making sure to scrape the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan. Cook 30 minutes for softer porridge-like polenta or 40 minutes for thicker polenta.
  5. Stir in cheese and butter, if using. Stir the cheese and butter into the polenta, if using. Serve immediately, or cover the pan and let it sit at the back of the stove for up to 15 minutes before serving.

Additional Notes:

  • Leftover Polenta: Polenta will solidify into the shape of the container in which you store it. Leftover polenta can be sliced or cubed before being roasted, grilled, or deep-fried. To make it creamy again, warm it with a little broth, milk, or water, and stir vigorously. It won’t be quite as creamy as it was originally, but it should still be pourable.
  • Per serving, based on 6 servings. (% daily value)…when  made with butter & cheese.
    • Calories 207
    • Fat 10.7 g (16.4%)
    • Saturated 6.1 g (30.7%)
    • Trans 0.4 g
    • Carbs 21 g (7%)
    • Fiber 1 g (4.1%)
    • Sugars 0.5 g
    • Protein 6.4 g (12.9%)
    • Cholesterol 29.4 mg (9.8%)
    • Sodium 517.5 mg (21.6%)

Livestrong has a good article on the Nutrition Information of Polenta. 


Ancient Harvest is the brand I buy. It is a very good brand for Organic Polenta, precooked in a tube. You can buy it just about anywhere. It is even sold at Walmart according to the websites “store locator”

The Traditional Polenta basic ingredients are simple:  Water, Organic Yellow Corn Meal, Salt, Tartaric Acid*, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Beta Carotene (Vitamin A) 

NUTRITION FACTS:  Servings per Container: about 5 / Serving Size: 2, 1/2 Inch Slices (100g) Calories 70, Total Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 310mg, Total Carbohydrates 15g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Protein 2g

Their polenta comes in several flavors. 

  • TRADITIONAL POLENTAAncient Harvest polentas may be wheat-free, gluten-free, fat-free, nut-free, soy-free and dairy-free, but you can bet they’re always flavor-full. Try our sensational ready-to-eat Food Merchants Traditional Italian Polenta and see what we mean. Delicioso!
  • BASIL GARLIC POLENTA  My favorite.
  • GREEN CHILI AND POLENTA  My husbands favorite.
  • POLENTA Polenta combined with quinoa. Haven’t tried this one yet.

Ancient Harvest has a great Polenta Recipe Page that is divided into topics. I liked this one: Easy, Plant-Powered Polenta Recipes In light of my last post about how french fries are killing us, here is an alternative option!

Baked Polenta Fries with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce Baked Polenta Fries with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce Created by Wendy at Fit-and-Frugal.com What a delicious treat! Baked Polenta fries with honey mustard dipping sauce are a fantastic addition to the Ancient Harvest family of recipes.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe’s nearby, they have their own brand of Organic Polenta in a tube. From their Fearless Flyer: “In typical Trader Joe’s fashion, Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta has a world-wise pedigree. The Washington-state-based company that makes it for us has family roots in Italy. They are also the pioneers of ready-to-eat polenta. Rather than stirring and waiting, stirring and waiting, you can have fresh-tasting polenta in minutes. Just slice it into rounds and bake or pan sauté for best results. (If you’re really careful, you can even grill the rounds.) Polenta can be topped with tomato sauce, grated cheese, basil & pine nuts or whatever suits your mood. It’s a terrific side dish with chicken, beef or your favorite mild fish. It also adds an interesting twist to otherwise traditional Eggs Benedict — whether you use it to replace the English muffin or the Canadian bacon is entirely up to you.” 

Here is a link to their Polenta Recipes. This one is almost like a lasagne. I need to try it for a “company dinner”. Acorn Squash Polenta Stacks Serves: 6/  Prep Time: 15 Minutes/  Cooking Time: 1 – 2 Hours

INGREDIENTS

 DIRECTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice squash halves into 1/2″ half-moon-shaped slices. Spray a large baking sheet with a light dusting of oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper. Place the slices on the sheet in a single layer. Lightly spray the tops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the slices are tender, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool; lower oven temperature to 350°F.
  • Place ricotta, kale, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a bowl and combine. Set aside.
  • Assemble the stacks: Coat the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with a light layer of sauce. Lay 12 Polenta rounds side by side and season with a little salt and pepper; cover with sauce. Next, top each round with squash slices facing each other, trim to fit neatly. Top each set of squash with the ricotta-kale mixture and smooth out. Top with more sauce, followed by a layer of polenta and the last layer of squash. Pour over the remainder of sauce and top each stack with Mozzarella cheese, followed by Parmesan cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Uncover for the last 10 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and rest 15 minutes before serving.

I am  always on the lookout for a new breakfast or lunch recipe. This one looks like it can be either. It is from The Breakfast Drama Queen. 

Polenta Scramble (Gluten-Free and Vegan)  This is a gluten-free, vegan breakfast scramble that’s easy to make and even easier to modify. Perfect for tofu-haters, or anyone who loves cornbread. Take a look at the recipe, click on the link. She has photos & explanations. Good website to bookmark! 

Prep time 20 mins/ Cook time 10 mins/ Total time 30 mins/ Yield: 2

Ingredients
  • ½ cup polenta
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups diced eggplant (approx. ½ an eggplant) Yum, my favorite veggie!
  • ½ a red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
 
Directions
  1. In a saucepan, use a wooden spoon to mix together the polenta, almond milk, water and salt. Bring the mixture to the boil (stirring occasionally) – or at least to the point where a lot of bubbles surface.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the polenta is thick and creamy.
  3. Transfer to polenta to a small-medium rectangular dish (mine was 5×7-in). Spread the polenta evenly and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add a few shakes of salt to the diced eggplant. Set aside.
  4. Turn out the polenta onto a plate or cutting board. Slice into small cubes (approximately 1×1-inch each). Set aside.
  5. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Grease well with cooking oil spray. Add the sliced bell pepper and carrot, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula.
  6. Add the diced eggplant, and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. (Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of steam when you add the broth).
  7. Carefully use the spatula to fold through the polenta without breaking the cubes. Add the parsley and a few shakes of black pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the polenta is warm and lightly browned. Taste for salt and pepper.
  8. Divide the polenta scramble between two plates (or bowls). Enjoy!

Polenta can be eaten as a porridge with cut fruit & a dollop of Greek yogurt for a breakfast or for a pick-me-up snack. It can also be eaten like southern grits. 

The difference between grits & polenta is the corn. Polenta is made with a yellow corn called flint or Indian corn. The kernels are harder, because they have less water content than other types of corn, thus the name flint.  Grits are made with white corn called dent corn. Dent corn is a field corn that is softer & higher in starch than flint. It is named after the dents on the top of the kernels. Both are stone-ground cornmeal but the flavor & texture is different. 

Good article from the KitchenPolenta Versus Grits: What’s the Difference? 


I hope you give polenta a try. Until next week…Mary 🙂


More recipes for polenta: