What do you think of when you hear the phrase "Italian cooking"?
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "Italian cooking"? Do you envision steaming plates of pasta, a robust Bolognese sauce simmering on the back of the stove, or perhaps a crisp crust pizza dotted with fresh mozzarella and basil?
I have travelled to Italy several times (my oldest sister lives in Maniago--just an hour north of Venice). Prior to that initial trip, I must admit that whenever I thought of Italy I thought of "pasta". But Italian food is so much more than that. In northern Italy there is less emphasis on pasta--polenta is definitely the "carb celeb".
There are two ways of serving polenta--it can be cooked, spread out on an oiled surface and allowed to solidify. Then slabs of the firm polenta are sautéed. The other version (and my favorite) is to cook the polenta slowly at a simmer. When all of the grains have become blissfully toothsome, stir in a bit of cream or mascarpone cheese. You now have luscious puddle of Heaven to serve to your family (....is my bias showing a bit here?).
Isn't polenta just another name for grits?
Before writing this hub I did a bit of research. Some writers say that the difference between grits and polenta is the fineness (or coarseness) of the grind, or the use of white cornmeal vs. yellow cornmeal.
Both are wrong.
- made from field corn (maize)
- soaked in lye or lime water to remove the bran and the germ
- is often coarse ground
- made from sweet corn
- still retains the bran and germ
- is stone (fine) ground
What makes this recipe unique?
Polenta can be allowed to cool and firm and then be baked, broiled or sautéed. And as I previously stated, it can be served immediately while it is still creamy. But there is a third stage in the preparation of polenta--that in-between phase when it is no longer creamy but not quite slab-like. That's when I think we can make something wonderful......"Polenta Dumplings".
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup half-and-half
- Prepare a large cookie sheet by covering it with a sheet of parchment paper. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray or grease lightly. Set aside.
- Bring 2 cups of the broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir the remaining 1 cup of broth into the dry polenta in a small mixing bowl.
- Gradually add the polenta mixture to the boiling broth, stirring constantly. When mixture returns to a boil, reduce heat to low. Cook and continue to stir until mixture is very thick (about 5 minutes). Be careful--it will sputter.
- Remove from heat. Stir in the cheese and half and half. All to sit for about 15 minutes. Using a small cookie scoop, form about 25 to 30 dumplings, placing them on the prepared cookie sheet. Cover and chill about one hour.
- To cook, carefully drop dumplings into simmering soup. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.
© 2013 Linda Lum