Polenta is an antique food very popular in Nord Italy. Originally made of barley flour and water, it has been considered a peasant food for centuries. Today it is simply boiled cornmeal that can be prepared in many different ways. In the Lombard region (North Italy) where I live right now, it is usually served creamy with cheese or stewed meat.
I generally avoid creamy polenta: to me, it has the consistency of a very thick mash potato with grains. Although, since I’m in Italy and it’s very common, I’ve been cooking it for my baby and he loves it. At least, he doesn’t eat only gluten.
So why do I write about polenta if I don’t like it? I never said I don’t like the flavour. What I don’t like is the creamy consistency… until I discovered that fried polenta is like a corn flavour bread full of potential. So if you never had it fried, I recommend this simple recipe for a start.
Positive: cheesy and – very lightly – hot, slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Great alternative to potato fries. Perfect for aperitivo, snack or as a side dish.
Negative: Yeaaah it’s fried, right. Whatever. :)
Ingredients for 2:
- 75 g quick-cook polenta
- 50 g grated cheese (gruyère, parmesan cheese, or cheddar cheese)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
In your pantry:
- 1 tablespoon evo oil
- 1 garlic clove or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 2 tablespoon (sunflower) oil to fry
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over low-medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a few minutes until it is fragrant (not browned). Remove the mixture to a small cup.
Bring 40 cl of water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly pour in the polenta while stirring with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down to low-medium and cook for a few minutes until the mixture has thickened. Stir in the garlic and chilli mixture, together with the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover a large baking dish with parchment paper. Pour in the polenta mixture and smooth it out evenly, about 2 cm thick. Leave the polenta to cool completely (approx. 30 mn).
Once the polenta is cool and firm, cut it into large sticks or strips. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan over med-high heat and fry the pieces of polenta until each side is lightly golden and crispy.
Serve the polenta with a tomato sauce* or mayo.
* To make an easy homemade tomato sauce, gently cook a garlic clove in some olive oil for a few minutes and then add tinned tomatoes (about 200 g for 2 people). Season with salt and don’t forget the pinch of sugar! I love my tomato sauce with origano in it, but you can add a bay leaf if you prefer. Let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes (time does everything) until the sauce has thickened somewhat.
My advice: Remember that your polenta should be about 2 cm thick (unlike mine in the picture). The polenta starts to soften once it hit the pan, making it difficult to turn it without breaking it. So it’s much easier to make thick and short strips.