Dubbed by some as “Italian Grits,” polenta has been popular and been abundant in the North of Italy since ancient times. First made from wild grains and later from a primitive wheat, faro, millet, spelt or chickpeas these grains were mixed with water to form a paste and then cooked on a hot stone. Sometime in the 15th or 16th century a new crop known as maize arrived from the New World. It was a perfect crop from the farms of Northern Italy and landowners were able to grow vast fields of corn for profit. Polenta was eaten either in porridge or in a hard cake like form. The best polenta that I have ever had was a few years ago at the now closed, L’Impero, in New York. It was the creamiest and served with a delicious mushroom sauce.
2 Cups Cold Water
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 ½ Cups Yellow Cornmeal
4 ½ Cups Boiling Water
½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
4 Tablespoons Butter Cut Into Pieces
Combine cold water and salt in a large Dutch oven. With a wire whisk, gradually beat in the cornmeal until smooth. Whisk in the boiling water and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook stirring frequently with a wooden spoon for 25 minutes. The mixture should be very thick. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and butter into the polenta until the butter has melted. Serve immediately. Serves 8