Thoughts of classic Italian peasant food evoke visions of pastas, slow-cooked meats and rich risottos. Yet it is polenta, with origins stretching beyond the days of the Roman Empire and a consistent presence in the cuisine of the Italians ever since, that most comprehensively represents the ideals of the cuisine.
In its current form, having evolved during the Middle Ages, true polenta is simply stone ground cornmeal. Cooked very slowly- no less than 90 minutes- the prepared dish is silken in texture, rich in flavour and the perfect accompaniment or base for countless dishes.
Most commonly, polenta is served ‘soft’, a luscious yellow or white paste enriched with milk, butter, stock, parmesan or any other combination of flavourful ingredients. But versatility is among polenta’s noblest virtues, and the cooked polenta can also be ‘set’ into cakes or slices and grilled, barbequed or fried for serving.
Polenta is a dream match for red meat and mushrooms, but is also traditionally served in Northern Italy with sauces such as bolognaise, with fish, or with a simple drizzle of truffle oil.
Polenta is also often used in baking, both sweet and savoury, and can be used to make incredible desserts. It appears in pastry recipes, is served as ‘chips’ and even adds a unique twist to soups.
As polenta grows in popularity around the world, products have appeared that shorten the preparation time to as low as 5 minutes, but what these products gain in speed, they lose countless times over in flavour, nutrition and complexity.
Only the authentic stone ground polenta, prepared as it has been for centuries, invokes the subtlety, tradition and vibrancy of this cuisine.
The Essential Ingredient is proud to import and stock Marino Felice Tradizionale organic polenta, known in Italy as ‘whole polenta’ due to its inclusion of flecks from the kernel shells which impart the full corn flavour that has been lost in most commercial varieties.
For a truly memorable dish, try our exclusive The Essential Ingredient Truffle Polenta (buy it now), made with authentic Italian polenta and dried Italian black truffles.