For those of you who have never heard of polenta, it’s a cornmeal based dish that is similar to grits.
As a child I used to call it Italian mashed potatoes even though no potatoes are involved. I hadn’t experienced grits yet so it seemed logical to associate them with mashed taters.
This logic is understandable if you knew the way my mother prepared it. She would serve alongside shredded chicken and marina sauce. The sauce was my Italian mashed potato gravy which funny enough is what some Italian-Americans would call their marinara.
This version is more of a Northern Italian style and doesn’t call for any type of gravy, in fact the author Mrs. Catherine Vincenti from my hometown’s Little Italy Festival Town Cookbook instructs us to get “a large bowl of leaf lettuce salad with oil and vinegar dressing, a glass of wine, fresh fruits and cookies, and finish with a strong cup of coffee.”
I like Mrs. Vincenti, so far she’s put the best little hint of flair at the end of her recipe.
What you’ll need
- 2 cups of cornmeal
- 6 cups of water
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 1/2 cups of shredded brick cheese
- 1/2 pound of butter
Cooking the cornmeal is similar to cooking rice and pasta in the sense that you want to put it in a pot of boiling salted water. Once you do that, stir the cornmeal constantly for about a half hour,
You’ll know it’s ready when the corn meal has thickened and is easily scrapped off the side of the pan.
Once this happens you are ready to bake your polenta. This process is similar to lasagna because you will be layering up your cheese and polenta. The first layer is the polenta, then the cheese. Continue to do this until you reach the top where the final layer will be polenta along with some pepper seasoning.
Before you place that polenta in the oven, we have one more topping to add and that topping is butter my friends.
Get your butter and a pan, melt it, and then pour it on top.
Now we are ready to bake and we will do so for a half hour at a temperature of 325-350.
At the end of the day, I prefer my mother’s version of polenta. My Italian people come more from the southern portion of Italy. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the northerners style. My genes just gravitate towards red gravy and slightly spicy dishes.
This is still a good recipe and I had a lot of fun making it with my LA bestie who had never had polenta before. She loved this recipe and I was glad she did, but I still want her to try my mama’s.
The cheese strangely gives the polenta a slight bitter flavor which I’m not used to. My experience with polenta has more of a slightly grainy and sweet flavor that gets a pop of taste when you add the marina in the mix. I’ll still give it an Italian like, despite my preferences.