I grew up believing that polenta is a typical Romanian dish. I didn’t even know the Italian word “polenta” as the Romanian name is different, we call it “mamaliga”. Only later did I realize that this cornmeal porridge is a staple food all around the world, found in many variations.
As I a child, we would serve it on a round wooden cutting board, exactly in the middle of our small wooden table. My grandpa would cut it with a white string into smaller square pieces and only afterwards we could start eating. We basically used to serve it accompanying lots of dishes – polenta with cheese, sour cream and a sunny side up egg on top; polenta with grilled meat and garlic sauce; polenta with mushrooms in white sauce (ciulama); polenta with stuffed cabbage rolls and so on. Leftover polenta can be warmed in a pan with a bit of olive oil or grilled and it tastes delicious.
I still love it a lot and whenever I visit my grandma, she knows how to welcome me: she cooks polenta, scrambled eggs (from her happy hens) and spring onions/green garlic or leek in the winter. And goat cheese from the village.
Polenta with homemade fried potatoes and garlic sauce is also one of my favorites, but fried potatoes should not happen too often :).
Here is a recipe of basic polenta:
1 liter water
300 – 400 g coarse yellow cornmeal (depending on the consistency you want to obtain)
1 tbsp oil or a bit of butter
a pinch of salt
Bring water to a boil. Add salt and oil. Using a wooden spoon, add cornmeal gradually, stirring continuously in order to avoid lumps.
When the cornmeal porridge starts to bubble, let is simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens and breaks away easily from the sides of the pot.
When ready, put it on a wooden cutting board or on a normal large plate.