Ah, polenta.   I love it because perhaps no other dish reminds me more of my northern italian heritage.  Both sides of my family made this piemontese dish.  You can have it covered with red sauce, a meat ragu, browned butter, or a brown gravy (especially a gravy made from a braised rabbit).

Polenta has to be stirred constantly while it cooks or it will stick and burn.  This was done in our house with a “polenta stick”.  You cannot buy a polenta stick in a store, so the men made the sticks to stir the polenta from hand.  They are about 1/2-inch thick by 1 1/2-inches wide and 12 inches long.  The women, on the other hand, used the sticks to beat insolent little italian children.  No wonder we are all like we are!  Poverina indeed!


3 cups of polenta (course ground cornmeal)

2 teaspoons of salt

9 cups of water

1/2 cup of grated cheese

4 tablespoons of butter

Loaf pan


Bring 9 cups of water and salt to a rolling boil.  Add the polenta, stir immediately fast and hard.  Turn the heat down to medium-low.  You need to keep stirring now to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  It is a process.  DO NOT FORGET to turn the heat down.  The polenta will pop and when it hits you, it hurts.  Turn the stove down to minimize the popping. Did I remind you to turn the stove down?  You are going to forget and get burnt by hot and sticky polenta.  Oh well, it is a rite of passage.  You will need to stir for about 30 minutes.  In the last five minutes add your butter and cheese.

You must stir it for 30 minutes.  This is not an authentic "polenta stick" for those who wondered.

You must stir it for 30 minutes. This is not an authentic “polenta stick” for those who wondered.

Now, take a meatloaf/bread pan and grease it lightly with oil or butter.  Pour the hot polenta into the pan.  Let it sit for about five minutes.  Flip it over onto a platter.  It should come out in one nice piece.  Cut a slice and add your sauce of choice.