Polenta, A Corn Gift from Italy
Marty Martindale

polentaMartha Rose Schulman, in the New York Times, has referred to polenta as “the elegant gruel,” ironic, because we tend to associate gruel with being a survival food for the lowliest.

Polenta is cornmeal boiled into a porridge then usually mixed with other vegetables, cheeses or seasonings and served along side fresh fish or meats. Corn Polenta is usually a pale yellow in color. The more finally ground corn polenta is milled, the creamier, it will be. Coarser polenta produces a chewier mixture.

Italy’s polenta gets its worst reputation for being a bit-painstaking to cook, as it requires careful stirring for about 45 minutes, similar to its Italian rice cousin, risotto. Eat corn polenta as a porridge, or form chilled polenta  into a desired shape and fry it or bake it. Sometimes it is topped with a delicious sauce.  There is a baking alternative which produces satisfactory results. Instant polenta is also on the market but not considered a good trade-off, tastewise or texturewise.

Here’s a quick, bright holiday suggestion for corn polenta. How about a Holiday Polenta made brighter with Parmesan cheese and dotted with decorative green peas and bits of red sun-dried tomatoes?

Since early in the 16th century, “polenta,” which has Hebrew, Latin origins, a corn or grain substance, has been cooked in water or milk, and eaten by the rich and poor around the world.

Nutritionally, corn polenta supplies iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6.

Buy polenta packed by North American baggers labeled “corn grits/polenta,” while Italian packagers label it, “polenta.” The pre-cooked polenta ingredient list is simply the polenta, itself, water, salt and butter.


  • Also served “soupy
  • Alternative to pasta or bread
  • Excellent with all cheeses
  • Grilled, fried or baked
  • Mushrooms
  • On kabobs
  • Pestos
  • Sausage ragu
  • Scrambled with eggs
  • Shaped into balls, sticks or patties
  • Stir fry
  • Tomato sauces
  • Top with maple syrup
  • With cod fish baccala


Below are foodsites with recipes for corn polenta.




Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.


Polenta, A Corn Gift from Italy — 2 Comments

  1. Hello. I am Professor of Food Technology, here in Brazil. During my research on lyophilized corn, I found your article. I would just like to inform you that the polenta is a typical product of Brazil, as corn originates from the Americas.
    The Italians just acquired it from us…

    • I have been to Brazil, Recife, Fortaleza and Rio. Thank you for your comment. I guess my thinking was that the recipe for polenta, or this use of corn, is a gift from the Italians.