It is one of the most traditional dishes of northern Italy and is perfect paired with fish, cheese or meat. Preparing it in a workmanlike manner is a question of proportions and times, of flour, pot and salt. Find out how to do it without making these 5 mistakes
Polenta (from the Latin puls, farinata di farro) is a food whose history is lost in the mists of time. In the Middle Ages it was one cream made from chopped beans cooked with oil, onions and sometimes with the addition of cereals such as buckwheat and spelled. It has always been a food for the poor, even when the beans were replaced corn meal, and starting from 1700 it became a typical meal in the regions of northern Italy. Polenta has always been served as a substitute for bread, as a side dish, accompanied by other foods, or sliced and toasted or fried. For a very long time it was a subsistence food, so much so that due to its continued consumption, without the addition of other nutrients, it has contributed to the spread of a disease called pellagra, due to a lack of vitamins. Currently, polenta, like many other poor foods, is experiencing a period of rediscovery like gourmet dish and tradition. And like all traditional dishes, you can prepare them at home, provided you don't fall into these common mistakes. Let's see them together.
Polenta: 5 mistakes not to be made
Don't give her time
Polenta is a dish that needs patience, to cook well, to become that soft and smooth mixture, perfect to accompany a meat stew, a tasty fish or a cream cheese. After pouring the flour into the pan with water and salt, the secret to obtain a homogeneous mixture, without lumps, is to mix the flour, slowly, for a long time, with a whisk, while it slowly thickens and cooks. Resist for at least an hour. If constancy does not belong to you, change the menu.
Choose any flour
The polenta has been preparing for about 400 years with the flour of longed corn (large grains). You can choose a full one if you like a more intense aroma. Also there buckwheat flour it is perfect, and is used above all in the valleys around Sondrio, in Lombardy: it has a darker color than that of corn, a rougher consistency, suitable for local cheeses. If you are not so foolhardy, you can try a mixture made from buckwheat flour and corn flour, to get what is called polenta taragna. In Veneto, instead, white corn is used, for a polenta accompanied by cuttlefish or cod. In the south, between Naples and Foggia, polenta is made with well-ground maize flour: it is fried, cut into slices and becomes street food.
Use any pan
Polenta has always been cooked in cauldron, that pot with high sides and a convex bottom, made of copper (or cast iron), able to spread heat evenly and cook the corn perfectly. All the others don't even consider them. The pot has only one tilting handle, because in the past the polenta was cooked in the fireplace. Fashions have changed, but the good habit of cooking polenta in the copper pot remains.
Miss the doses of flour and water
Only the veterans of polenta are allowed to enjoy the luxury of going to the eye. For all others, the doses to consider are: 4 liters of water for each kg of flour. Bearing in mind that the more raw the flour is, the more it will absorb water. So, if you use one of buckwheat, add liquid at your discretion. Indicatively then, 500 g of flour is enough for 4 people, unless you have invited the greatest admirer of polenta to dinner.
Abound with salt
The hand that prepares the polenta must be slight. There is no exact dose of salt that must be put into the water while it is warming up, but eating a too tasty polenta is really unpleasant. Keep in mind that often the foods to which it is accompanied are very savory (see cheeses): for this reason it is better to be light, so as not to ruin such a job. Salt can also be added once the polenta is cooked.
How to combine polenta
Discover in the tutorial our recommendations for a dish based on polenta.