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Polenta is an inexpensive, alternative to pasta or rice, and can be served in many ways. Here's a basic recipe for making polenta, as well as numerous serving ideas.

9 cups cold water
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups cornmeal

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and reduce the heat to medium low. As soon as the water begins to simmer, start pouring in the cornmeal in a thin stream, very slowly while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps. Once all the cornmeal has been added, keep the water at a simmer, and stir frequently. It should take between 25-30 minutes to fully cook the polenta. Once cooked, the polenta should pull away from the sides of the pot easily.
Soft Polenta: Use polenta directly out of the pot, topped with sauce or vegetables as desired.
Firm Polenta: Once completely cooked, pour onto a wooden board or a greased baking sheet about 2 inches thick and allow to set. Cut into squares and serve as desired.
Baked Polenta: Cut the firm polenta into slices, and place in a buttered baking dish. Add desired topping, and bake at 375 degrees F. until golden.
Grilled Polenta: Cut firm polenta into squares, brush with oil and grill lightly on both sides.
Fried Polenta: Cut the firm polenta into slices and fry in a few inches of hot oil until golden brown and crispy.
Serves 4 to 6.