Polenta–The Perfect Sub for Pasta

The first time I had polenta was at an Italian restaurant on the West Coast. The restaurant has long since closed, but the memory of that dish and the new discovery my taste buds had found is as vivid as ever. The dish was simple. Served in a large, shallow white bowl, the polenta was covered with a rich marinara sauce, sauteed mushrooms and freshly grated Parmesan. And I thought it was divine. SO much better than pasta. Creamy. Tasty. And beyond flavorful. Of course I love grits and the two “corns” are similar so it wasn’t a big surprise.

Polenta is an Italian dish, hence the reason you often see it served in Italian restaurants with red sauce, made from yellow corn. Grits on the other hand are an American Southern staple, made from white corn and usually served for breakfast.

Over the years, I’ve ordered it maybe five times and every time I do, I am reminded of that night. Not for any other reason than the discovery of a new food. And I have often wanted to make it, so much so that I’ve scribbled it on my weekly meal-planning list umpteen times. Alas, it was only this past week when I made it for the first time and to be honest, I was a bit disappointed. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I bought a tube rather than the actual coarse corn that lets you make it from scratch. 

Tube polenta is thicker than the kind you make from corn meal. It’s great for grilling or baking and can be layered or stacked like the photo, but it’s not creamy and or soft like the other version.

To be clear, the flavor was good, but it just wasn’t the consistency I was after. Note to self for the next time I try my hand at making this dish. Which I plan to do soon as I’m still craving it … and when I do, I’ll be sure to share how I prepared it. But, until then, just know that Polenta is a great gluten-free alternative to pasta and you should try it. Just slice it, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake it. That’s all there is to it. Oh, and if you have some lovely way of preparing it, please, drop me a line and let me know.

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One Comment

  1. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen

    In New England, we called cooked polenta corn meal mush! My mom would pour the leftovers in a little square baking dish and refrigerate. After it firmed up, she would cut it into squares and we would have it fried for breakfast. She usually fried it in bacon grease!


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