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Grains, Potatoes and Rice
Ostaria Istriana
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(Corn Meal Mush)

Polenta is a coarse ground cornmeal and generally made into a mush-like porridge. Polenta is to the Italians, and especially to the Venetians, what potatoes is to the Irish, Germans and Americans, and rice to the Japanese.



Read the articles before trying out these recipes!

Basic soft Polenta


  • 1 lb. yellow polenta, coarsely ground
  • 2 qts. water
  • 1/4 oz. salt

This ratio applies to a soft polenta, which is always served with a condiment or with the addition of other ingredients. If polenta is to be baked, grilled or eaten a substitute for bread, use a 3:1 ratio of water to polenta, and the same amount of salt.

Bring the proper quantity of water to a boil, adequately salted, then lower the heat (be careful, because in the beginning, while adding cornmeal, boiling water might easily splash) and add the coarsely ground cornmeal, little by little, stirring constantly. Do not pour directly from the container, but use your hands, pouring a handful at time. After adding all the cornmeal, turn up the heat and cook for 40-50 mins. stirring constantly. While cooking, the heat should be high enough to cause bubbles to rise and burst on the surface. While stirring, pull the cornmeal off the sides of the pot and from the bottom up. When ready, the polenta should come off a wooden spoon (tarello) and the sides of the pot.

It can be served hot immediately with the desired condiment, or it may be poured out of the paiolo onto a wooden board. To do so, smooth the surface of the polenta and, with a brisk move, turn the paiolo upside down and polenta will easily come out. Cut with a wooden knife and serve. Polenta is often cut with a piece of thick string stretched tightly between two hands.


Polenta made with finely ground cornmeal forms lumps easily. In order to avoid this, add 1/5 of the cornmeal to the salted water while it is still cold, mixing with a whisk. Once the cornmeal is blended with the water, cover, in order to prevent boiling polenta from splashing, and let boil for 10 mins. Then, stirring constantly, add the remaining cornmeal following the procedures described in basic method.


  • - Recipes -

Polenta veneziana

Ingredients for 6 servings:

  • 7 cups water
  • 1 lb. polenta or cornmeal
  • 2 tbs. salt

Measure the water and salt into a 4-quart saucepan, one with sloping sides if available. Place over a high flame and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to slightly above medium. While stirring the water with a wire whip add the polenta very slowly. If added too quickly lumps will form.

Stir the polenta with a wooden paddle every few minutes, folding from the bottom onto the top. As the polenta cooks a crust will form on the bottom of the pan and sides as well. When ready, the polenta should readily pull away from the crust when stirred. This should happen after about 45 minutes. The longer you cook the polenta the better it will be.

Remove teh saucepan from the fire and in one swift motion invert the pan over a wooden board, depositing the polenta in the center. Immediately fill the pan with cold water or it will become extremely difficult to clean later. Soak the pan overnight.

The polenta if properly cooked should spread out onto the board to a thickness of 1-1/2 to 2 inches. It is traditional to cut a small slice from one side of the polenta as soon as it has been placed on the board. The reason for this is obscure, certainly can have little effect upon the outcome, but it is the way it is done. Perhaps it is a libation to the polenta god.

Slice the polenta into strips an inch in width and 6 to 7 inches long. Do this as it is served, not in advance. Leftover polenta may be charcoaled or pan fried... or it may be eaten as is, cold.


  • H.F. Bruning, Jr. and Cav. Umberto Bullo, Venetian Cooking, 200 Authentic Recipes Adapted for American Cooks, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. (New York, 1973)

Nina's polenta

polenta.jpg (72837 bytes)Ingredients:

  • 1 lb.  coarse corn meal
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts water (approx. - see other notes)
  • fistful of salt (or to taste)
Boil water in a heavy pot, half full.  Add salt, then add corn meal slowly while mixing with a wire whisk to prevent lumps from forming. Cook over low heat for 45-60 minutes, frequently stirring and turning over the polenta with a wooden spoon or paddle to cook all sides.  When it is ready, the polenta lifts from the sides of the pot. Pour into wooden dish or board.

Serve with brodeto (fish stew), veal and peas gravy, or any preferred sauce.

Courtesy of:

  • Nina Ciceran

Polenta # 1 (italiano)


  • 500 g di farina gialla
  • sale 
  • acqua

È molto difficile dare le dosi esatte dell'acqua in cui si deve cuocere la polenta, data che dipende dalla diversa qualità di farina gialla. La farina nuova, ad esempio, richiede meno acqua di quella vecchia. Ad ogni modo potete calcolare per mezzo chilo di farina circa un litro e mezzo d'acqua., se volete ottenere una polenta piuttosto dura, e un litro e tre quarti se la preferite tenera. 

Mettere a bollire l'acqua in un paiolo, meglio se di rame, salatela bene, perchè nella polenta non si può aggiungere sale. Quando bolle versatevi a pioggia, poco per volta, la farina gialla, sempre sbattendo con energia, in modo che non si formino grumi. Se dopo messa tutta la farina vi sembrasse troppo molle aggiungete qualche cucchiaio di farina, se viceversa vi accorgeste, mentre state versando la farina, che diventa troppo dura, fermatevi subito, perchè per fare una buona polenta non dovete aggiungere acqua. 

Lasciate cuocere a fuoco ardente sempre rimestando con l'apposito bastone per trenta, quaranta minuti. La polenta è cotta quando si stacca dalle pareti del paiolo.


  • Il nuovo cucchiaio d'argento, 5a edizione, a cura di Vera Rossi Rodomez e Franco Matricardi, Editoriale Domus (Milano, 1965), p. 213.

Polenta # 2 (italiano)


  • 400 g di farina di granturco
  • 1 cucchiaio d'olio
  • 10 g di sale 
  • 1,2 l d'acqua

Mettere in una pentola l'acqua, il sale e l'olio. Quando l'acqua incomincerà a bollire, versare pian piano la farina, mescolando continuamente. Continuare a mescolare finche la polenta non incomincerà a staccarsi dal mestolo e dalla pentola (circa mezz'ora). Quindi rovesciarla sulla tavoletta e tagliarla a fette con un filo. Si serve col brodetto o con 10 spezzatino.

(Molti preferiscono la polenta come piatto a parte collatte, oppure con lo strutto o il burro bollente e cosparsa di parmigiano grattugaito).

Polenta di patate


  • 500 g di patate 
  • 200 g di granturco 
  • 10 g di sale 
  • 2 cucchiai d'olio 
  • acqua 
  • 100 g di burro

Dimezzare le patate lavate e pelate e cucinarle nell'acqua salata. Aggiungere l'olio e la farina. Lasciar cucinare per circa 20 minuti, senza mescolare. Togliere l'acqua rimasta e mescolare bene. Continuare la cottura, mescolando continuamente, finche la polenta non incomincerà a staccarsi dal mestolo e dalla pentola. Disporla a cucchiaiate su di un piatto, versare sopra il burro fuso e servire subito.


  • Cucina Istriana, a cura di Franko Lukez e Branko Lovric, PETKO (Pula, 1994)

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran

Created: Wednesday, January 20, 1999. Last Updated: Monday, August 26, 2013
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