Once the main dish in the mountainous regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta, Trentino, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Marche and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, polenta is now recognized throughout Italy and beyond!
In Italy, there is even a saying that attests to the national importance of polenta: "La polenta è utile per quattro cose: serve da minestra, serve da pane, sazia, e scalda le mani", which can be translated as: "Polenta is useful for four things: to make soup, to make bread, to fill you up and to warm your hands. "
Let's discover this multifaceted traditional dish together!
What is polenta?
Polenta is a dish made from corn flour. Cornmeal is usually made from yellow corn, but buckwheat and white corn, as well as mixtures of the three, are also prevalent. Other starches such as farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt and chickpea flour were used before the introduction of corn in the 16th century.
To create polenta, the grain is gradually cooked in four to five times its amount of water until the water is absorbed and the starch is gelatinized evenly throughout the polenta.
The beginning of Polenta
Polenta is firmly rooted in the cultural character of Italy, and for good reason!
In ancient Rome, Pultem was the name given to a milder form of polenta made from cooked ground spelt. Corn replaced spelt as the main component of polenta when it was imported from America to Europe. According to some, corn has long been available in Europe as it was grown in the Middle East.
Around 1550, the Friulians were possibly the first people in Italy to use this grain imported from afar. At that time, corn was called "granoturco" (Turkish grain), as anything that came from abroad was referred to as "Turkish".
Let's talk about variety!
Polenta, like oatmeal or rice, is adaptable and can be eaten in a variety of ways at any time of day. It can be an exquisite dinner or a simple lunch depending on what's added to it and how it's presented. There are several varieties of polenta depending on how the meal is prepared:
- Coarse ground polenta
- Finely ground polenta
- Instant polenta
- White polenta
- Precooked (tube) polenta
A traditional delicacy at your fingertips
If you’d like to prepare polenta at home using traditional Italian ingredients, visit our store to get started!
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