Although we think of polenta as a side dish in reality it was the only food for many Italians from its introduction in the 16th century to the middle of the 20th.  It can be served with a sauce, melted mozzarella cheese or as a base for meat.  The ingredients used in preparing it can be almost anything you have in the pantry like canned tuna or clams, roasted red peppers or leftover protein.  Some like it firm and some like it soft and as a child I ate it fried with maple syrup like French toast.  Again it’s Italian not gourmet  and since this corn meal is not slacked, cooked with lime, it has a low nutritional profile and many who based their diet on it suffered from incapacitating pellagra, a niacin deficiency that could even cause death and insanity as it did in the American South..

Here’s a basic video tutorial … Again remember it a peasant dish so toss in what ever you’ve got available.  There was no polenta before the Colombian Exchange.

8 ounces polenta or coarse corn meal

3 cups meat stock, granulated base

2 ounces diced pancetta, bacon, salami or mortadella

2 each roasted red peppers, processed

2 tablespoons garlic minced

4 ounces onions, finely diced or processed

To taste herbs, fresh or dried – whatever is handy

4 ounces fennel, spinach, zucchini etc.

2 tablespoons butter

4 ounces cream

2 ounces parmesan

To taste salt and pepper, or granulated chicken stock

1.  Bring the stock to a boil in a heavy stockpot add meal stirring continually heat and stir frequently

2.  Add the processed peppers, garlic, onions herbs, vegetables and protein.

3.  Simmer the polenta at low heat stirring frequently for about 40 minutes

4.  When the polenta no longer tastes granular, remove it from heat add the cream, butter, and parmesan.

You can serve it directly from the pot, or chill and reheat by microwave, broiling, baking, or deep frying.  You could make a Panini sandwich by layering it with pepperoni, fresh mozzarella and herbs then dipping it in egg and frying.