I spent many years in the region of Friuli -Venezia Giulia in Northern Italy and have quite a love for the region, its food, people and culture. When I think of a traditional Friuli dish, naturally I could name several dishes, but the one that stands out in mind is Polenta. If you're not familiar with this chameleon type food, Polenta is made with ground cornmeal. It can be ground coarsely or finely depending on the region and the texture desired. Polenta can be served creamy (softer) or in a cake like (denser) consistency. In the denser consistency, it can also be fried, grilled, made into balls, patties or sticks - making it an extremely versatile food.
Polenta was originally considered a dish for peasants, but is no longer seen in this light. What makes it so versatile is its ability to work together with other ingredients. It can be served with nearly anything on top. This includes cheeses, sauces, vegetables, meats, etc. The toppings, as always, depend on the region. Some examples are: Polenta con salsiccie (sausage), Polenta con funghi (mushrooms), Polenta Pasticiatta (a lasagne type Polenta dish), and Polenta e gorgonzola.
Polenta is an incredibly easy dish to make, not to mention hearty and very economical. In these tough economic times it's a perfect dish. I hope you'll give it a try. Do as the Italians do and use local ingredients that are abundant in your region. Visit your local farmers market and use your seasonal ingredients to spice up this dish.
To make Polenta simply:
- Bring water to a rolling boil.
- Add 2 tsp of kosher or sea salt to your boiling water.
- Using a whisk, slowly add in 2 cups of cornmeal flour.
- Reduce heat to low & simmer slowly for 50-60 minutes.
- Stir with a wooden spoon!
I topped my Polenta with a mushroom, butter sauce and garnished with freshly grated Pecorino cheese.