Carlo Middione's Polenta Facile

By • March 5, 2013 • 43 Comments

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Author Notes: This is a no-nonsense polenta technique familiar to Italian restaurant kitchens everywhere -- perfect for a dinner party, or anytime you want to get cooking well before dinner time and go about your business. Best of all: the longer it sits, the better it gets. Any bitterness fades; every gritty grain swells and turns to cream. You can make it with stock, or add milk or cream or cheese, but even straight water polenta will taste better than it has a right to. Adapted slightly from The Foods of Southern Italy (William Morrow, 1987).Genius Recipes

Serves 8

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups polenta (not instant)
  1. Using only the top half of a double boiler, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, and add salt. Meanwhile, put as much water in the bottom half of the double boiler as will be needed to actually cover the bottom of the top part of the double boiler when it is finally put in, and bring to a heavy simmer. (Note: If you don't have a double boiler, you can use a large pot with a slightly smaller bowl or pot set inside it.)
  2. Put the polenta in a measuring cup from which you can pour it. With a slender but sturdy wooden spoon or a medium-strength whisk, create a vortex in the water in the top half of the double boiler by swirling it in one direction only. This is critical because, if you simply slosh the water around, you create lumps in the polenta that are almost impossible to remove. (If you do get lumps, don't worry -- just mash them against the side of the pot now.)
  3. While the water is swirling in a vortex, drizzle in the polenta a pioggia (like it is raining). You can do this very rapidly, but do not stop stirring. When all the polenta is in, continue to stir but not so energetically. Keep stirring the whole time, being sure to scrape into the corners of the pot where the sides meet the bottom. Lower the heat so that the polenta intermittently bubbles on the surface and "spits" at you.
  4. Continue to stir the polenta for about 5 minutes. When the polenta begins to thicken, place the lid on the pan, and fit it into the bottom half of the double boiler (with the simmering water below reaching up as high as possible underneath the top piece). If you don't have a well-fitting lid, seal with foil. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. Taste for doneness. The polenta should be very yellow, smooth, shiny, and sweet tasting. If it is slightly bitter, cook it longer.
  5. Polenta facile can be held in a slowly simmering double boiler in perfect condition for up to 4 hours. This makes it ideal for large parties or when you simply do not want too many last-minute dishes to worry about.
Jump to Comments (43)

Tags: corn, polenta

Comments (43) Questions (1)

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10 months ago beejay45

I've never had a problem with lumps either. I think it's one of those things that logic will take care of, I mean you know you have to stir it in, you can't just dump it...if you don't know even that much about cooking, you don't belong in the kitchen. ;) I, too, use a whisk and just whisk it in slowly -- usually to hot milk/broth/water, then give an occasional stir. My friend swears by the oven method, though, and I love her polenta, too. (This is showing "polenta" as a spelling error with the suggested fix being "tadpole"! Hilarious!)
BTW, they sell the Wonderbag on Amazon. I haven't looked into it yet, but I'm wondering if you have to add more liquid than usual since, off heat, you can't be adding more without lowering the temp. Anyone tried that with polenta yet?

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12 months ago TessaVA

Polenta Facile Works like a charm! No fuss, no muss, NO STIRRING! Yea!!

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about 1 year ago Deborah Bier

I found Wonderbag here online. (I'm not affiliated with them in any way, nor do I own one... but would like to reduce my use of fuel) http://nb-wonderbag.com/

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over 1 year ago ashley's brain

This made me hungry for polenta. Inspired, I tried making it in my Sanyo rice cooker on the 'porridge' setting. Used this same ratio of liquid to polenta. Used half whole milk, half water; added about 2 Tbs butter. Added everything cold, stirred to mix, and started it. I did give it a stir after about 45ish minutes to make sure it was all mixed & smooth.
Marvelous!! Creamy and soft, and no muss and no fuss. Plus it automatically held on the 'Keep warm' setting. If you have a rice cooker with a porridge setting, give it a shot.

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over 1 year ago MarthaP

Thank you!! I tried this in my rice maker and it was perfect!

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about 1 year ago ascherl

Yes, just tried this and I can second that it worked like a charm!

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11 months ago Pat in SoCal

Oh, boy, oh,boy,oh, boy! I gotta try this!

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over 1 year ago mboerner

Being lazy, I use the microwave: 5 c. water for each cup of good cornmeal; put in water; pour in cornmeal; whisk with wire wisk; cook cover at high power in microwave for 30 minutes; stir again with wisk; cook 30 minutes at low power in microwave. Voila, perfect polenta. But use only Arizona Mills or other excellent cornmeal.

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over 1 year ago shirleyanne smedley

anyone got any more info on the Wonder Bag?

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almost 2 years ago mbr101

soooo, I continue to learn not to assume... ;) lol

Mcs

almost 2 years ago mcs3000

Must try this. Love polenta.

Dscn0155

almost 2 years ago Herself

I follow Martha Rose Shulman's directions for cooking polenta in the oven. Works like a charm.

Me

almost 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I mean caused HIM to lose his sense of taste :-)!!

Me

almost 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I love the note below on the Wonder Bag and want one now. And this is a great, great way to do polenta. I was lucky enough to be in classes in school that Carlo taught on Italian food before his car accident (which caused me to lose his sense of taste). He is a gentle soul as well as brilliant.

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almost 2 years ago Lesliebling

The Wonder Bag info is fascinating! I wonder if we all shouldn't consider ways to cook with less energy...

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almost 2 years ago lemons

Whisks always leave me with corners of the pan untouched. I use a wooden spatula for most of my wooden spoon-type work, much better at reaching the corners.

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almost 2 years ago duckfat

After you whisk the polenta give the sides of your pot a good stir with your spoon et voila, no lumps.

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almost 2 years ago walkie74

Anybody got any idea if the slow cooker idea works? It'd make a hell of a breakfast in the morning, if it did...

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almost 2 years ago SBKSB

I've also read a recipe--Lidia Bastianich, maybe?-- for starting the polenta in cold water, which prevents lumping, and then bringing it to a boil. Seems to work--why isn't it recommended here, I wonder?

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almost 2 years ago Twixen

Agree with Duckfat....I've always used a whisk at first when adding polenta to water and I don't remember ever seeing lumpy polenta, didn't realize people even had this problem with polenta :-).

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almost 2 years ago Tokyo Yum

How about putting the pot into a water bath in the oven - if it is 1 1/2 hours? Has any body tried that?

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almost 2 years ago Cutie

I always add the polenta to COLD water and then bring it to a boil and Never get lumps!

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almost 2 years ago JRG

Intriguing! And if you did it early in the evening, you could have toasty toes at bedtime... MOre seriously, it seems that one could also do this in a crockpot AKA slow cooker.

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almost 2 years ago JRG

Intriguing. And it you did this at bedtime, you could have toasty toes too! More seriously, I am wondering if you could do this in a crock pot AKA slow cooker....

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almost 2 years ago Jill Manfredi

NOW you tell me! lol

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almost 2 years ago susan g

Clarification? Per step one, the upper pot is in the water of the base pot, not over it (the usual double boiler rule, as seen in the A&M video)? Step 4 says 'underneath'?

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almost 2 years ago Lisa Poe Taylor

Great! I love these genius recipes; it's like having a loving grandmother providing her well guarded secrets on a variety of culinary adventures.

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almost 2 years ago Betty Morgan

I cook them in a pressure cooker. Just put it a trivet and use a metal pot that will fit into your cooker and leave room for water in the cooker bottom. Soak them with a 4 to 1 ratio of water to in my case grits over night. Put in 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt per cup of grits used. Get the pressure up to 15 pounds for 22 minutes. Longer if you want mushy but I hve never gone past 25 minutes.

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almost 2 years ago Gail Hicks

I have used a bowl set over simmering water to keep cooked polenta warm but never thought of using it as a cooking technique. GENIUS! I will be trying this method very soon; we love polenta!

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almost 2 years ago ItalianFoodie

I put my polenta into the oven at 325 for as long as I want. It gets nice and toasty roasty. BTW, any long cooking recipe can be put in a slow oven, sop, chili, pasta sauce, you name it. You can cook it without stirring or sticking. I usually set the oven at 300-325F.

September2013

almost 2 years ago Thistle

Hmmm, intriguing. Do you start it on the stove top then put it in the oven to cook or just stir it together in a casserole dish and put it in? And how long 'til it's ready?

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almost 2 years ago ItalianFoodie

That's soup. not sop.

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almost 2 years ago ItalianFoodie

I usually bring it up to temp in the oven, and then just put the food, covered, in the oven. Simmer in the oven as long as you would on the stovetop

September2013

almost 2 years ago Thistle

Cool, I'm going to give it a whirl. Thanks!!

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almost 2 years ago duckfat

Use a whisk instead of a spoon when adding the polenta to the boiling water. It makes it impossible for lumps to form.

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almost 2 years ago Lesliebling

Hm, this sounds like a good approach to polenta, but it does require a double boiler, which I don't have. I recently invented another lazy way to make polenta, which was inspired by a Danish friend, who told me that the key step in making Danish rice pudding is putting the hot pot of partially cooked milk and rice into bed and leaving it under the covers for a long time! I tried this with polenta and voila, it worked!

I start the polenta as described here, using 4 cups of salted boiling water per cup of polenta, stir until it starts 'spitting' and then cooking and stirring 5-10 more minutes. Then the polenta goes off to bed, wrapped in a feather quilt. Between 30 to 60 minutes later, I take it out and it's pretty much done. I heat it up again for good measure and put in some butter and Parmesan.

Not everyone has a double boiler, but I would hope most people have a bed :)

Ls

almost 2 years ago gluttonforlife

that is hilarious

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almost 2 years ago Ascender

I have something called a Wonder Bag, which is like a bed for cookware. If you bring a pot to the boil, it will keep food slow-cooking for 4-8 hours without the temperature dropping below 140F. I also use it for culturing yogurt, making quark, etc.

The Wonder Bag was invented due to the fuel shortage in Africa. They can stew foods for hours using only 15 minutes worth of fuel. It is also used in refuge camps, where there are many more families than electric cook-rings. One camp for Syrian refugees has 20 families using each cook-ring. A woman brings her pot and gets 15 minutes to bring it to the boil before tucking it into the Wonder Bag and leaving the cook-ring to the next woman. All 20 families end up with warm dinners.

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almost 2 years ago eenie meenie

Ascender, where were you able to order your Wonder Bag from???

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almost 2 years ago Lesliebling

Ha, glad my method is amusing. It really does work though. And apparently putting food in bed is nothing unusual in Northern Europe, as my German relatives regularly stash rice or potatoes under the covers if they are done cooking before the rest if the meal!

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almost 2 years ago mbr101

Lesliebling, what do you mean when you say, " under the covers", "Then the polenta goes off to bed, wrapped in a feather quilt." I realize the last quote is a creative speech but am wondering if you simply cover it up & let it sit on stove. I've learned to ask than assume :) Thanks for sharing!!!

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almost 2 years ago Lesliebling

HI mbr101, actually this is not creative speech! By "covers," "bed" and "feather quilt" I mean exactly that. I take my pot of hot, half-cooked polenta from the kitchen to my bedroom, put it on the bed and cover it snugly with a quilt. As I mentioned, I'd already learned from my German relatives to keep cooked food warm this way (usually potatoes or rice). Then my Danish friend said that this method is actually used to *cook* rice pudding in Denmark, which is what led to my polenta idea...

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almost 2 years ago mbr101

soooo, I continue to learn not to assume ;) Thanks for your reply :) Much appreciated...