What Is Polenta, Exactly?
If you didn't grow up in big Italian family full of home cooks, you may be unfamiliar with a dish known as polenta. Sure, you can find polenta on grocery shelves and restaurant menus all across the U.S., but what is polenta, exactly? Polenta, a Northern Italian dish made from coarsely ground yellow corn, has always been popular for its simplicity and versatility. A classic preparation of polenta requires just a few basic pantry ingredients—water or stock, butter, salt, and pepper. If you want to make the dish more indulgent, mix in a bit of parmesan cheese. In restaurants, polenta is often served fried with marinara sauce, as a creamy accompaniment to chicken, pork, or short ribs, or turned into croutons atop a Tuscan salad.
Despite polenta's humble roots dating back to the 16th century, it has developed a reputation for being fussy, lumpy, and difficult to master. We're here to put whatever negative connotations of polenta you have aside. We explain exactly what polenta is made of, how to make polenta, and share some of our favorite polenta recipes for every meal (plus dessert!).