Basic Polenta Recipe Italians often spice-up their polenta by substituting water with broth, and adding any random milk product that they find in the refrigerator - cream, milk, butter or grated cheese work well.
3 1/2 cups cold water
Pour 3 cups of the water into a heavy saucepan, add the salt and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. While the water is coming to a boil, stir the remaining 1/2 cup water into the cornmeal. Stir until the cornmeal is evenly dampened. This will keep the cornmeal from becoming lumpy as it cooks. As soon as the water boils, stir in the dampened cornmeal. Briskly whisk until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the heat to medium-low and briskly stir the cornmeal for 2 or 3 minutes. The mixture will get stiff quickly. When the polenta begins to come away from the sides of the pan and the whisk stands up by itself in the center of the polenta, it is ready to serve.
Soft Polenta Make the basic recipe above, and immediately pour the portions in individual bowls. If desired, stir in any cheese, cooked vegetables, or sauce of choice at this point. Serve Immediately.
Firm Polenta -- to bake, grill or fry Make the basic recipe above, and as soon as you take the pan off the heat, pour the contents into a shallow pan. Cool uncovered on your stovetop until its room temperature, then cover with plastic and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and firm. Once the cornmeal has firmed up, it may be cut into shapes (squares, circles, triangles, rectangles or even stars) and then baked, grilled or fried -- use relatively small polenta slices/shapes for frying and handle very carefully so that they do not fall apart.
The polenta can be eaten as is or you can serve it with your favorite sauce, meat or vegetable. It can be treated very much as you would a pasta, bread or potato.
Try either the soft or the firm polenta with a delicious Puttanesca sauce poured over it.
For the Puttanesca Sauce
• 1 1/4 pound whole peeled tomatoes
• 3/4 cup shallots, minced
• 1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
• 1/2 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and chopped
• 1/4 cup pepperoncini, chopped
• 2 tablespoon red chili flakes
• 1/4 cup capers
• Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
• Parmesan shavings (optional)