Whenever I make polenta for guests they say, “You made polenta?” I almost hate to diminish the impact by revealing how ridiculously easy it is to make, but in the name of deliciousness, here goes.
The real trick to perfect polenta is to use fresh cornmeal. I buy the widely available Bob’s Redmil Corn Grits for Polenta, a medium-coarse grind that cooks evenly.
Other than that, it’s all about a slow simmer, occasional stirring, and the butter and cheese. I like my polenta on the thick side, so I let it sit in the warm pan for about 15 minutes before I serve it. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, spread it out in a baking pan about 1-inch deep, cover, and chill. Once cooled, it will be firm enough to cut into slices, which can be fried in a little oil for a killer round-two treat.
Eat the polenta on its own, or with a meaty stew, or smothered in mushrooms, or for breakfast under a fried egg. Pure comfort.
Serves 4 generously
5 c. water
1 c. coarse grind polenta
2 tsp. kosher salt, perhaps more
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, with more for serving
freshly ground black pepper
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the water, polenta, and salt. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to very low, leaving the pan uncovered, so that the polenta barely simmers. Stir every 5-10 minutes to keep polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If the water boils away before the texture is as soft as you’d like, just stir in more water and continue cooking. When it becomes very thick and soft—depending on the polenta type, anywhere from 45-60 minutes—remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Polenta can be covered and held for up to 30 minutes. Stir to re-soften before serving. Serve topped with extra cheese and a few grinds of black pepper.