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How to Make Crispy Polenta – an Easy Italian Recipe

Have you ever tried crispy polenta? What is polenta anyway? You’re in luck because not only do we make it at our restaurant in South Miami, but we are going to share a crispy polenta recipe you can make from the comfort of your own home. This recipe is perfect for those days you’d rather cook in pajamas and an apron on a weekend with your loved ones and a good movie!

What is Polenta? 

The crispy polenta recipe is another foodie gift from Italy that requires a small amount of ingredients including butter, salt and pepper, stock or water, and yellow cornmeal. Like many great dishes, polenta was originally considered a meal for peasants in Northern Italy but is now a regular part of the Italian diet. For traditionalists, crispy polenta is slow-cooked. Non-traditionalists appreciate the shortcut of using precooked or instant polenta. Regardless of how you chose to prepare polenta, it is typically served as a thick mush topped with cheese, ragu, or another sauce. Another serving alternative is to allow the polenta to become firm and cut into wedges to be grilled, pan-fried, or baked. 

There are five types of polenta and they are all versatile in their own way! Whether you’re looking to impress your Friday night date with a sophisticated yet simple meal or a casual lunch, polenta is an adaptable staple to keep on hand for any occasion. The varieties to choose from are: 

  • Finely ground 
  • Course
  • Instant
  • White
  • Precooked 

Dry Uncooked Polenta in Bowls on the Table

Here are a few ways polenta can be prepared:

    • It can be served soft as a side dish with herbs or topped with cheese. 
    • It is great as a base for vegetarian dishes.
    • It works great as a substitute for pasta or rice when combined with chilis and meat sauces. 
    • It is delicious as a hot breakfast cereal similar to oatmeal. Simply add milk, fruit, cinnamon, sugar, or butter. 
    • It is perfect in baked or grilled form for hors-d’oeuvres or appetizers. 
    • It is an excellent addition to casseroles. 
  • It is an acceptable substitute for biscuit or pastry toppings for pot pies!

How to Make Crispy Polenta Recipe

Crispy baked polenta is made from grain and the finer it is, the creamier it will be. It is a great source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and stores well in the pantry for a few years. It has no cholesterol but when toppings are added, the cholesterol and calorie count may change dramatically. Preparation methods may also alter the cholesterol and calorie content of crispy baked polenta. For now, we’ll focus on how to make crispy polenta and worry about calories later: 

Ingredients: 

  • Four cups of water
  • One cup of cornmeal
  • Half a cup of sun-dried tomatoes chopped
  • One teaspoon of salt
  • One teaspoon of dried minced onion
  • One teaspoon of dried minced garlic
  • Half a cup of parmesan cheese
  • One egg
  • Half a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Half a cup of fat-free milk
  • Half a cup of seasoned bread crumbs
  • Two teaspoons dried cilantro flakes
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • Nine tablespoons of reduced-fat sour cream

Preparation

    • Phase One: First, you’ll want to bring the water, salt, garlic, onion, and tomatoes to a boil in a large saucepan.
    • Phase Two: Whisk in the cornmeal as you reduce the heat and stir with a wooden spoon for up to 20 minutes or until thickened.
    • Phase Three: Next, stir in the oregano and cheese and spread onto a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray.
    • Phase Four: Let the mixture cool to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
    • Phase Five: Next, cut the polenta into squares. In a separate mixing bowl, combine and whisk the egg and milk. In another mixing bowl, combine the cilantro and breadcrumbs. Now, dip each square into the egg mixture first then into the breadcrumbs.
    • Phase Six: Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and add oil. Cook the polenta in batches of up to two pieces until golden brown. Once finished, cook with sour cream and enjoy!

Difference between Tuscan Polenta and Cornmeal

Polenta and cornmeal are very similar with the exception of the texture of the grain. Cornmeal can be divided into three main textured varieties of fine, medium, and course. There are several varieties of cornmeal including white, yellow, blue, and corn made by two different processes. Cornmeal that is made through the traditional method of stone – grinding will typically be labeled as such. Unlabeled cornmeal is generally made through a steel roller process. When the packaging doesn’t indicate a grind coarseness, it is believed to be medium. 

Polenta is considered to be a dish rather than an ingredient like cornmeal. Although it is versatile enough to be used as an ingredient, it takes longer to cook and can stand on its own as a complement to other dishes being served. Authentic polenta is made from a specific type of corn grown in Italy called “otto file” or eight-row flint in English. It is rich in color and flavor with a completely different milling process from cornmeal. When purchasing cornmeal to make Tuscan polenta, search for the polenta label. 

Italian Meal Fried Polenta Showing in Cubes

Tuscan Polenta The Meal of Champions

Steeped in tradition, Tuscan polenta has a long history that dates back to the ancient Romans. It was originally made from wild grains, millet, chickpeas, spelt, or farro and a staple of Roman legions. The soldiers would toast the grain, crush it, then store it for later. In between stops, they would grind the grain down to a finer consistency then boil it to create a porridge. Roman soldiers would consume it as is or allow it to harden into a cake. When hardened on a hot stove, polenta became the first bread before more advanced technologies produced what we know today as bread. As time passed, manufactured flour was considered a tedious luxury that could only be afforded by wealthy aristocrats. Corn was not introduced to Europe until the mid – 1600s. 

The word polenta is derived from the Latin word for pollen meaning “fine flour” which is similar to the root word pulvis which means “dust”. Often referred to as “Italian grits”, Tuscan polenta has a noticeably different texture. Besides, grits are made from white corn or hominy with a much finer texture. 

Try Our Crispy Polenta

Still wondering what is polenta and where can I find it? You won’t have to go far to find Tuscan polenta in South Miami. Our Crispy Polenta is a crowd favorite from our dinner menu made with Tuscan herb-infused polenta, parmesan, with house-made tomato mostarda. 

We’d recommend enjoying crispy baked polenta during our weekly specials like Happy Hour Monday through Friday or Half Priced Bottles of Wine on Mondays. Try our starters from our Bites menu like Mama’s Meatballs, Margherita Flatbread, or Spicy Pepperoni Flatbread. Our signature cocktails are a hit with a generous variety of fun drinks like the refreshing Lemon Queen made with lavender honey and fresh lemons or the Umbrellas in Amalfi made with peach, prosecco, fresh lime, and housemade Bacardi limoncello. 

If you’re available on the weekends, you won’t want to miss our live jazz events. It’s a great way to end a stressful week or begin a new one. We welcome private parties and events so bring the family and friends to celebrate any special occasion. 

Take a look at our website to check for live jazz dates and reserve your table today!

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