I am possibly the world’s biggest advocate for polenta. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I can’t emphasise enough how great polenta is. Seriously. It’s definitely up there in my top ten foods. Now I’m not talking about the ready-made blocks of polenta you buy from the supermarket, fry up or grill and then are disgusted over how tasteless and bland it is, no. I’m talking fresh-from-the-pot-my-mama-shoulda-been-Italian-I-love-it-so-much polenta.
I like to buy my polenta from Carluccio’s because I can get a huge bag and it lasts me a long while. It is quick-cook polenta so technically not “authentic” but it’s still darn good, and it makes your life a little easier. For really authentic stuff I’d probably need to move to Italy, somehow get myself adopted into an Italian family and then learn their family polenta secrets, but in the meantime this’ll do me just fine.
The great thing about polenta is just how versatile it is. When wet it works amazingly to sop up all the delicious juices from other food, and when you’ve let it cool it hardens and then you can fry or grill it to perfection (or, if you’re feeling peckish and can’t be bothered to heat it up, just eat it as is).
Normally, the way I make it, I use a base of chicken or vegetable stock mixed with a bit of milk, then at the end add a knob of butter and a very large handful of grated parmesan cheese (Parmigianno Reggiano, not the pre-grated kind, I always use real ingredients in my cooking, not fake ones!). I then eat it with some homemade bolognese sauce (I usually make a vat of this and keep it in the freezer for quick meals, I’ll post the recipe next time I have to make one, at the moment I’ve still got a large box in the freezer!), a little more parmesan on top and some freshly torn basil leaves. Perfection. If I have any leftover (which is rare because I’m a glutton) I pour it onto a baking tray, let it cool, cut it into triangles and store it in an airtight box. Try frying it with a little olive oil in a pan until crispy (be careful, it spits quite a bit because of the nature of polenta) – it goes a real treat with a glass of white wine!