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Featured Ingredient - Italy


Cornmeal (Polenta)

Information about Cornmeal or Polenta



Go to:-  Italy Main Page  |  Italy Speciality Dish  |  Cooking by Country Main Page




Cornmeal is a grainy flour which has been ground from the dried kernels of yellow or white corn. Today cornmeal can be bought in  fine or coarse grades as well as stone-ground, which is made from whole kernels and produces a richer flour. It is used in many cuisines, especially in South America where corn rules supreme, and can be used to make bread, often with the addition of a wheat based flour.


Although wheat in the form of Pasta is thought by many to be THE staple of Italy, in reality this was largely only true in the south. Cornmeal in the form of Polenta, has traditionally been the staple for the poorer classes in the North and in Roman times is was widely used to feed the Roman soldiers. Interestingly, northern Italians are called "polentoni" because of their extensive use of polenta in their cooking.


A very versatile ingredient, once mixed with water it can be boiled, fried or baked, sometimes flavoured with cheese, onions or herbs and eaten as an accompaniment to meats and poultry, or used as a base in recipes such as Polenta Lasagne. In general the coarse grained yellow cornmeal is used for Polenta although a fine textured, white type, made from white corn is sometimes used.


Just to confuse matters, when you buy  the ingredient (cornmeal) to make Polenta, it is usually just called “Polenta”. But if you look at the ingredients list,  it is simply ground maize – cornmeal.  From our research, Polenta  is the name given to the porridge mush once  liquid has been added. The Italian name for cornmeal is farina d'avena .... according to Google language translator.


You'll find recipes using cornmeal on both the Italy main page and throughout the site. Use the search form to find them all.


Happy Cooking!



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