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Basic Polenta

Serves 4

Polenta, Italian cornmeal, is so versatile. It can be eaten soft like grits. It can be made thicker, chilled, then fried, grilled, baked or broiled, as in the similar and related recipes. It can be plain or many different types of herbs or cheese can be added, as well as butter or olive oil for a silkier texture. Because of its mild flavor, almost any type of sauce can be used as a topping. This recipe is very basic, so have fun and experiment. You can make this recipe using quick-cooking polenta, following the package directions for water amounts and cooking time.


For soft polenta: Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, being certain to break up any lumps that might form. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, until thick and creamy, adding more water if too thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in salt, pepper and seasonings as desired. Serve immediately.

For thick polenta: Follow the directions above but continue to cook until very thick so that the spoon almost stands up by itself. Add seasonings and place polenta in a lightly greased loaf pan or flat baking dish. Cool completely and refrigerate until very firm, preferably overnight. Slice into desired pieces for frying, grilling, baking or broiling.