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Polenta: what it is, how to cook a traditional dish of Italian cuisine

They say about the famous Italian dish called “polenta” that it can be transformed like Cinderella in the tale of Charles Perrault: in the afternoon it is a simple rustic dish, in the evening – an exquisite culinary masterpiece. The main thing in it is cornmeal.
The key to success is compliance with the technology of working with this product, which is not the most usual for Russians, and, of course, a creative approach. So what is polenta, what kind of cereal is used in its preparation, and how to cook an Italian corn meal dish at home?

The idea belongs to the ancient Romans – it was they who began to cook porridge “pulse”, which later became the prototype of polenta. The difference between the two dishes is that the pulse was cooked from millet, chickpea, barley, and polenta – from corn, which became available to Europeans only at the end of the 16th century, when its grains were brought to the Old World from America. For a long time it was food for the poor – wandering monks, peasants.

It was cooked in a large copper pot, carefully mixing, so that, having thickened, the porridge did not drain from the wooden stirring shovel. Later, other products (seafood, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms) began to be added to corn – and the food of the poor migrated to the tables of wealthy citizens. Today it is cooked in home kitchens, in restaurants, taverns. This is an independent dish with various additives or a side dish. It can be hard or soft, intended for first and second courses or desserts (in this case sugar is added to it).

Among modern varieties – instant polenta, the basis for which is produced industrially by steaming and then drying the crushed grains. Such a semi-finished product is cooked for only two minutes. On the pages of our site you will also learn the recipe for arancini – another traditional Italian dish! Do you know how to cook potato gnocchi?

Traditions of eating cereal porridge, its benefits and harm Polenta in its pure form is most often prepared at home for breakfast. One of the traditional options is to cut it into slices and eat it by dipping a cappuccino in a cup. In a cafe, it is usually served (as a main dish) with sauce, a great variety of options. Fish dishes, as well as Italian classic Osso Buco – meat stewed in wine, cannot do without polenta (already in garnish status). Very often, cut into slices polenta replaces Italians with bread or pasta (in this case, it is supplemented with truffle oil and cheese).

It is good cold and hot (this option in Italy is considered a traditional winter food), grainy in structure and tender, like cream. Using this product at dinner, it is advisable to limit the portion, since it is high-calorie: in 100 g of Italian corn “porridge” – 330 kcal.

There are a lot of ways to cook this dish. In order for it to turn out tasty regardless of the recipe, you need to know a few rules about how to cook polenta: the traditional ratio of the components is 1 part corn flour to 3 parts water (it changes depending on what density the product needs to be obtained in the end); cooking time on low heat – from 40 to 50 minutes; if corn flour is replaced with cereal, which is allowed, the cooking time is reduced to 20-25 minutes; stir constantly with a long wooden spoon; cookware is needed thick-walled (for example, cast iron).

How to choose the ingredients in the store Without high-quality flour, delicious food will not work even for the most experienced housewife. The secret of corn flour is that during the cooking process, the starch particles dissolve and the finished “porridge” even visually looks creamy, smooth, and how much it tastes good can be found in its many fans. What happens if the flour is of poor quality, cheap or fake?

Large particles do not dissolve completely, creating a feeling of “sand in the mouth.” To avoid such troubles, you need to buy the product in large stores that cooperate with reliable manufacturers, and if you are lucky, buy real Italian flour. The word “bramata” on the label means – coarse flour, “stone-ground” – that it is ground with stone millstones, thanks to which all its useful properties are preserved in the product.

The classic recipe for cooking in this recipe is based on the ratio of one and a half glasses of water to half a glass of flour. In hot, but still non-boiling water, carefully, in small portions.

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