Polenta is an Italian style of cooked cornmeal, and it’s basically the same as grits, which is a traditional dish of the American South (also sometimes known as cornmeal mush). It’s delicious if you eat it like oatmeal, but it’s also a good base for a DIY Grain Bowl (page 14) or topped with stew or a stir-fry. Polenta is traditionally cooked by stirring it forever on the stovetop, but our oven-baked method is much easier.
Lidded casserole dish (or an8-inch square baking pan and aluminum foil)
- 1 cup cornmeal or old fashioned (not instant) grits
- 4 cups water, milk, or a combination
- 1/2 salt
- Toppings: butter, olive oil, shredded cheese, and/or fresh herbs
Turn the oven on and set the heat to 350 degrees.
Put the cornmeal, water (or milk), and salt in the baking dish and whisk to combine. (It won’t really seem combined, and that’s fine.) Cover with the lid or foil.
Once the oven temperature has reached 350 degrees, put the dish in the oven and bake for 50 minutes.
Using pot holders, carefully take the dish out of the oven, uncover it, and whisk the polenta to combine. Cover again and let rest for 10 minutes, then serve with any of your favorite toppings.
You can pour warm cooked polenta into a loaf pan and put it in the fridge. Once it’s cold and solid, you can slice it, fry the slices in a little oil or butter, and use them as the base for a baked, layered lasagna like dish with tomato sauce and cheese. Yum!