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Classic Polenta

Classic Polenta

Classic Polenta


Makes 6 to 8 servings


6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup vegetable oil


  1. Bring water and salt to a boil in large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stirring water vigorously, add cornmeal in very thin but steady stream (do not let lumps form). Reduce heat to low.
  2. Cook polenta, uncovered, 40 to 60 minutes until very thick, stirring frequently. Polenta is ready when spoon will stand upright by itself in center of mixture. Polenta can be served at this point. (See Note.)
  3. For fried polenta, spray 11X7-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread polenta mixture evenly into baking pan. Cover and let stand at room temperature at least 6 hours or until completely cooled and firm.
  4. Unmold polenta onto cutting board. Cut polenta crosswise into 1-1/4-inch-wide strips. Cut strips into 2- to 3-inch-long pieces.
  5. Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium. Fry polenta pieces, half at a time, 4 to 5 minutes until golden on all sides, turning as needed. Garnish as desired.


Polenta is an important component of Northern Italian cooking. The basic preparation presented here can be served in two forms. Hot freshly made polenta, prepared through step 2, can be mixed with 1/3 cup butter and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese and served as a first course. Or, pour onto a large platter and top with a hearty meat sauce for a main dish. Fried polenta, as prepared here, is appropriate as an appetizer or as a side dish with meat.

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