Polenta is an ancient food, and is tremendously versatile – it’s one of those satisfying dishes that you can make a whole meal of, or use as a side dish or first course if you prefer. There isn’t much you can’t add to polenta, so use your imagination and have fun with it… bacon, onions? why not?
It is usually cooked in a deep, round-bottomed copper pan called a ‘paiolo’, but if you haven’t got one of those (we haven’t, Leo has) you can use any large, heavy pan.
Spelled ‘Concia’ in all the recipes, but pronounced ‘Cuncia’ in Sostegno, where we first met it… this is a regional polenta found mostly in the Val d’Aosta and around Biella.
Here is the recipe as we learned it in Sostegno:
5 cups water (or a light stock)
1 1/2 cups polenta, or coarse yellow cornmeal
1 cup diced fontina cheese
1/3 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste
Bring the water to a boil, add 1 t salt.
Slowly stir in the cornmeal, whisking furiously to prevent lumping.
Reduce the heat to low, so that the polenta just makes the occassional bubble from below. Stir frequently. It will take anywhere from 10 minutes (commercial cornmeal) to 40 minutes (coarse polenta) to cook.
When it is creamy and no longer gritty stir in the diced cheese and the butter and stir continuously until the cheese has melted. Add additional salt if required and a grate or two of pepper. Serve immediately.