Wednesday, March 03, 2010


(Ivano says: We have quite a few comments to this article. Here's a tip. To view the "Polenta" article along with all the comments "clicca" on the title of the article above. The comments will appear at the end of the "Polenta Story". )





IVANO SAYS: Last week, Donna Maurillo's column in the Santa Cruz Sentinel
had a few suggestion on how to shorten the time to prepare polenta. In this week's column she published some of the responses she received. Very interesting.

Donna Maurillo: Column on quick-and-easy polenta stirs up quite a response
By Donna Maurillo
Posted: 03/03/2010 08:02:12 AM PST

Last week’s column about polenta generated much more response than I’d anticipated. A lot of you must love polenta, and you have your own favorite ways for preparing it in a snap — or at least without much stirring. Here are a few comments. Gail Levy says, “I’ve been making cold water polenta for years, and it has never failed. Stir the grain into cold stock or water, then stir as it comes to the boil. Add more boiling liquid as needed and stir in the butter at the last — perfect lump free creamy polenta in under 30 minutes.”

Ivano Franco Comelli wrote, “Making polenta the traditional way was almost a ritual — no additives or shortcuts please.

Imagine my chagrin when I received a photo from my cousins in Italy making polenta in a large electric cake mixer.

Nobody has any scruples anymore.”

To that, Richard Smith of Aptos wrote, “I don’t need any stinking scruples! Is there any way my bread machine can make polenta? Now that sounds cool.”

A reader with the screen name Polenta Casserole Junkie said, “I whisk in two cups of polenta to four cups boiling water, turn the heat down low, and I only stir it twice in 15 minutes of cooking.

I turn off the flame and let it sit for five more minutes. I do not cover it with a lid. It is always great.”

Ken Clark, an impressive 99 years old and still cooking, says, “Have you
ever cooked polenta in the microwave?

In a Pyrex large bowl, mix polenta with three times as much water. Cover with plastic wrap. Cook for 5 minutes. Add sour cream, butter and cheese, stir well. If too thick, add some milk. If not hot enough, just microwave for 1 or 2 minutes more.

No splatters from the hot stuff.”

Keith and Barb, no last name, wrote, “Another way to make polenta without stirring is to start with cold water.

Add pinch of salt and two tablespoons butter to cold water. Stir in polenta.

Turn on low heat and bring to a slow boil. Stir occasionally. Polenta is cooked shortly after coming to a boil. Add cheese before removing from the stove.”

Marianne Plastina says, “In an ovenproof pot, add salt to 5 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil on the stove. Melt butter in a skillet and stir in 1 cup polenta to coat, toasting it slightly.

Whisk toasted polenta into the boiling water.

Place the pot in a 350 degree oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Whisk until smooth.”


Whenever people ask what my favorite restaurant is, I have the same response. My mother’s dining room table. There’s just nothing like the food you can get at home.

A few days ago, I was having an alarm system installed in my home, and Saul the installation guy was talking about the fine Mexican food his mother and grandmother could make. “No matter what restaurant I go to in Watsonville,” he said, “it just isn’t the same.”

We thought maybe it was the ingredients.

But no. Restaurants can access the same ingredients your family can find — and sometimes even better.

Or maybe we just happen to like the cooking we’ve grown accustomed to as children. But I think the real secret is the love that goes into it. You just can’t get Mom’s love at a restaurant.


If there’s one thing that annoys party organizers more than anything, it’s the increasing lack of responses from invited guests. The season is coming up for graduations, weddings and other milestones.

Please remember to respond to your invitations, and do it before the requested time.

Your host and hostess are depending on an accurate count to ensure enough seating and refreshments. And please do not ask if you can bring a guest of your own. Many party budgets are limited, especially in this economy.

IVANO SAYS (CONT'D): Sempre Avanti, Donna and keep stirring the pot.


Anonymous said...

That polenta looks good. Like that which my mother made. You could slice it with a string.

It makes me want to cook some tomorrow. Now if I only could find a place where I could by a baccalà for the sauce.

Saluti e buon appetito.


Poletti Corrado said...

vorrei portare anche io il mio contributo sulla polenta....visto che abito in una delle regioni dove la polenta ha contribuitoa fare la storia di questa Trentino.

se qualcuno la può tradurre....grazie... e saluti a tutti.

Anonymous said...

Poletti, Corrado asked for a translation:

"I would also bring my contribution about polenta...seeing that I live in one of the regions where polenta has contributed to the history of this land...The Trentino. Grettings to all."


Ivano says: Received this e-mail from Doriano 'The Canadian Furlan' with photo that appears at the top of the article. Full instructions on how to make "scruples" polenta are included.

Polenta !! Now we are going to get into the ritual that will take us back generations. As I mentioned to you in my previous emails during our Fogolar Furlan Annual Picnic we make enough polenta to serve 200 people. This is coordinated by our long time Fogolar member Olga Grossutti who arrives at the park at 7am with me to make sure I have the large "cialderie"(in Furlan for large pot). Olga would get the cialderie boiling early and she would add the polenta flour a bit at a time mixing thoroughly to ensure by mid afternoon it was ready for dinner. What a ritual !! Olga is 86 years old and still insists on making the polenta and becomes extremely upset when someone tries to take over the ritual. She allows me to get the water and bring the polenta flour. And that is it. No-one else can touch the polenta, while she is making it.. "Mio Dio" if someone does look out !
Attached is a photo of Olga mixing the Polenta "Messede se no si tache" "Mix it because it will stick"
In Friuli you are right on Ivano, they use mixers. Friends of the family just brought a unit back from Friuli !! And apparently all you have to do is add the water pour the polenta flour and turn the mixer and instant polenta !! A very far cry when my Nonna back in Bressa di Campoformido made polenta on an old wood burning oven in large thick black cast iron pot. I know the last time I visited Friuli my cousins just go out to the grocery store and purchase already made polenta ... certainly not the same like Nonna's.
Friends of the family tell me that they have relatives back home in Friuli that specifically grow corn and have it milled at the Molino for polenta. They have carried on with their ancestors planting the seeds year after year that were handed down over centuries.

Ciao e mandi

DIANE B said...

That is great Ivan my mom Irene Terrini would have never taken a short cut in her cooking!!!! Thanks and hope you are well

DONNA R said...

I read the article in the paper. I don't understand the big deal about making polenta. My kids have always loved it, and if was a big deal, I still would have done it for my ganga. Andreina (RODONI) used to make it on Sunday evening with rabbit, quail, duck, venison; whatever the kids has brought in from their days hunt. ~Donna~

JERRY M. said...

I had enough polenta as a kid to last me a lifetime.

IVANO said...

To Jerry M. I remember your mother, Edith Mungai, being a great "Cuoca" (cook).I'm not to sure that she would have taken your comments as a compliment. ivno


Ivan I found the articles on the makings of our "beloved POLENTA" very very interesting. It is surprising to me on how many ways their are to make it, but I
noticed that all these ways are the lazy ways and the fasted way to make it.
For me there is only one way , on a BIG BLACK KETTLE ,in the middle of the room hanging from an open fireplace, with a big wooden spoon ,and then using your good old arms to stir and stir till your arms are ready to break off. And of course to help boost your will power to keep on stirring along , a glass of GRAPPA to sip on. That's the way to do it and
there you have the real way to prepare POLENTA -- the only food that helped our grand father's and our father's survive, along with Raddichio and that piece of cheese (if your family was lucky to have some a round), and finally
that ever present GLASS of wine to end the perfect meal. Sempre Avanti and yes Donna -- keep stirring the pot.

RENO from Cisterna del Friuli

GINO said...

Ciao Ivano,

The polenta articles have created quite a stir! **** ** (Morse code for "laughter")

In all my years I never knew that polenta could be improved with butter or cream.
That sounds like something I should try, not that I need the added calories.

As far as I know, my mother never added those things to her polenta, but she
did, however occasionally add a bit of butter to the sauce, with the caution that I NEVER tell
my father "Baffi". "He would leave home if he knew!" Actually, when the butter had been
added, he seemed to enjoy the sauce more. Fortunately, he never found out.

I have finally realized that Baffi had nothing against milk products, but had been
disgusted by the unsanitary conditions in a milk processing plant in which he
worked for a short time in the late 1920s. The conditions he described are too
awful to relate. Having experienced that, I don't blame him a bit.

I'll have to try some "butter enhanced" polenta soon. The only problem is that I
still have not learned to make just a single portion, and end up eating all of it anyway.

Buon appetito à tutti con Loro polenta.

Migliori auguri, Gino

Carolina Cariola said...

Yes,yes, Reno. I too love polenta with cheese and glass of red wine. It makes me feel so romantic. Carrie

IVANO said...

Received the following e-mail from
the Canadian Furlan with attached group photo shown at the very top.

Hey Ivano Mio Caro Amico
Another photo on our annual Polenta picnic celebrations. This photo was taken a few years ago. I am the one with the baffi second form left in black shorts with my arm around another fine cook Elvira Volpatti. Now my hair has changed ... a little snow capped now .. I can't understand why.
Most of the people in the photo have crossed ... "il Ultimo ponte" that is sad to say but we keep their memories alive !! One of our members who is mixing the polenta Dino Ceccatto from Lockport New York, as you know New York state borders Canada and we are minutes away from upper New York State. So many Furlan members from USA come to our celebrations.
Every year during our picnic Dino brings over aged Friulano Cheese and Muset.. Ivano I am certain you know what Muset is.?? I hope so it is a favorite Furlan staple. The only problem is ... well you know the colesterol it brings on but like our friend Reno Cantarutti mentions in his previous email... you must have the Grappa to wash it down... that eliminates the colesterol !! ha ha .. Old Furlan wives tales. ....
Well as most of the Furlans know Muset is made from the out portion of the Pork skin and all and incased in casing similar to salami.. the only thing is the Muset is boiled .. and boy is it tasteful. Dino quickly fries it with white wine !! And he tops if off with a glass of wine and some polenta... this is at 7am !!! Dino thinks he is still back in Friuli working the fields starting at 2am working till 6am stopping for a huge breakfast and working till say 1pm and taking a siesta till 6pm and then back to work till 10pm.... back than you can have those huge Furlan meals now that will quickly place one in the care of a Cardiologist !!
I love the old traditions and without them we cannot be who we are today. I have a few friends that still keep the old contadino ways from Friuli.. making salami, wine, and of course Grappa!! These are age old traditions that can never be written in receipe books... they are all logged in Nonno or Nonna's memory banks!!

Have a Great Polenta Day...

Ciao e Mandi

Anonymous said...

Thanks for including me in the recipients list. This is fun to read. My sister made polenta yesterday for breakfast, but she cooked it very quickly and with almost no stirring. The consistency was not firm enough, and it had many small lumps. Still, it was much better than eating Cheerios.

Donna Maurillo



What a great write-up! If I'm ever in New York or Canada during one of their events, I will definitely go and eat with them.

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

A ranchhouse Polenta meal prepared by Valentina "su per la costa"

"...a huge mound of the cooked,mush-like polenta was placed 0n the table in a large serving platter. The ranceri then spooned out the hot polenta from the platter,dumping several spoonfuls in the middles of their plates. They then engulfed the polenta with heaping spoonfuls of red tomato sauce accompanied by big hunks of beef, chicken, or rabbit. "Si mangia" [sse mahn' jah],the ranceri would say before digging in -meaning "Let's eat!"*

*From "La Nostra Costa" Our Coast,
Chapter 8, "La Cuoca (The Cook) page 86.

Anonymous said...

留言支持好作品~來打聲招呼-大家好!!! ........................................

Johnny Coltivita said...

Stop! Stop!! You all are making me hungry beyond belief. All I can think of is Polenta al sugo, Polenta and formaggio, and fried Polenta. Have any of you tried fried polenta with cheese? It's the greatest. JC

ZIA LINA said...

Ivano,too bad you didn't have a picture of Valentina in the cookhouse in Davemport.
Here is a another version of Nonno Giovanni Bressani polenta cooked on top of a wood stove.He sat on the table to eat and than I hear him scream: " Che polente chi ehee crude! Mettile indaur in the chalerie e cusinile anche 30 minutes!
( Questa polenta e' cruda mettila indietro nella caldaia a cucinala ancora 30 minuti") Meaning that the polenta was undercooked and neeed another 30 minutes. Other times, mad as hell he get up from the table and yells :" Qiste polente a sa di fum!"
(questa polenta sa di fumo l'avete lasciata brucire!)Meaning that the polenta tasted like smoke and you all let it burn. Nonno's recipe was: you stand by the polenta,stir, don't let it burn and cook it for one hour.Ciao,Zia Lina.


Ivan ,

I've been keeping up with the comments on our " beloved polenta ". The last
comment made by your grandfather (as reported by Zia Lina), I have to agree with. The only way (and by-the-way the only right way) is in that big black kettle , in the middle of the room , and standing up to the open fire and sucking up all that smoke in your lungs while stirring,stirring, stirring, until you know (if you are Friulian), that the polenta is cooked.

Ivan correct me if I am
wrong , but its seems to me that when I had polenta at your house , your wonderful mother, Valentina made " white corn meal polenta". I am sure that's the only place I ever ate it. Am I right? RENO

Ivano says: Reno, my mother did prepare "white corn meal" polenta. I seem to recall that at a certain period in time we couldn't get the real, yellow Polenta. Must have been during or shortly after WW II
when rations were in place. I think that you would agree that it was not quite the same as the "yellow" polenta. Sempre Avanti with the stirring of the pot. ____________________________________________________________

Marvin DC said...

Hey Kap,

Just a quick comment; I think I still have one of the little bronze or copper pots to which Reno is referring; it might have been black from all the smoke, but it was called in the Piemontese dialect "il bronzin'", I think referring to it's being made of bronze? I thought it looked more like copper, but it might have been some kind of alloy.

ADA B. said...

I love polenta! My mom used to make an extra large pot of it, then let the left over meal set in a bowl. We would have it for breakfast, fried and sprinkled with a bit of sugar and cinnamon. GOOD...
She had a cute tale that went with polenta. In Italy during the early 1900s, when a young man went courting, the girl would check out his necktie. If there were polenta stains on it, he was surely from a poor family...

Things have changed. Today, polenta is a delicacy...

Happy trails...(In Italian) Felice pistas... It doesn't sound as good huh? Ada B [

DONNA M. said...

When I married a Southern man many years ago, I spent time with his family in North Carolina. (I'm from New York.) My mother-in-law served a breakfast of fried ham steak, ham gravy (also known as red-eye gravy because the ham bone looked like a red eye), eggs, and white polenta. I thought it odd that polenta would not be yellow. "Don't you have yellow polenta down here?" I asked. My MIL looked at me really funny and said, "Polenta? What's that? Those are grits you're eating."

By the way, in the South, grits are known as "Georgia ice cream."

DONNA R. said...

Never (had white polenta). It sounded intriguing until I read your comment about it not being as good as the yellow polenta. Andreina (Rodoni) used to always talk about what a staple in the diet is was as they were growing up. My children and grandchildren love it, and so do I. Tender fried or barbeque chicken with polenta on the side. um um good!


I'm really on a roll. Here's more on my favored dish POLENTA .

No one has mentioned what the proper way is to cut the polenta
when cooled . I think the way is with a wire -- right?

My favorite way to eat it is to slice it about 3/8 of an inch thick,fry it in a heavy frying pan with some good old olive oil. Keep frying until the polenta forms a good hard crust.

Then sit down and enjoy the fried polenta with some good (Monterey Jack?) cheese and of course this meal is not complete, without a big glass of (red) WINE .
There is no better meal in this world for me then that. RENO DI CISTERNA

Johnny Coltavita said...

RENO: We are Polenta Brothers. Your recipe for fried polenta has my mouth watering. Problem is I'll have to cook the polenta for an hour, constantly stirring, then wait till it cools, then find me a wire (will a baling wire do?)to cut it then fry it up. By then I'll be too drunk drinking the red wine to care. JC

Anonymous said...

HEY JOHNNY C.: Here's some good advise from Donna.

Try using dental floss to cut it. But new... not used. LOL


IVANO said...

Brilliant Donna. I remember my mother (Valentina) using a very taut string of some type to cut the polenta. I think that it might have been waxed. (probably candle wax).
BTW: My daughter, Suzanne, is a Registered Dental Hygienist, so I have an endless supply of new dental floss. Sempre Avanti, Ivan0

Anonymous said...

The Polenta Beat goes on. I had another go today, starting with cold water. as someone suggested.

That worked very nicely and quickly. I almost managed to make a single serving, but had some left over. By tomorrow, I may not be able to slice it with dental floss. I may have to use a hatchet.

In any case, my polenta which is "adequate" will never be as good as that made by our mothers.
Right Ivano?

Saluti Gino


Hey everybody, Forget about the use the use of dental flosss versus wire . The wire is stronger, cheaper . So go in your garage, find a piece to use. Plus it will help in making the polenta taste better (especially if it has a bit of rust on it).

Gino , you are right there is no one that has that " special
touch " to make our beloved POLENTA taste better than our mothers. RENO


Ivano says: Received the below e-ma from "Il Ferruccio" my cousin and proprietor of the Ramandolo Club in Friuli, Italy
Per his request I will translate (very loosely) for those of you who do not read Italian/Furlan.

He says: Dear friends of 'La Nostra Costa' , I promise the next time I make polenta in that "cake mixer" gadget, I will send you a photo. Pesonally, I can say that it makes a pretty good plate of "Polenta ala Lumps."

Sempre Avanti. ivn0
----- Original Message -----
From: Ferruccio Dri
Subject: R: More Polenta Comments

Cari amici de la nostra costa

La prossima volta che faccio la polenta sullo spolert Vi mando la foto !??

Personalmente mi riesce molto bene la “Polente cui grops”

Traduci Ivano ai toui amici il significato




What are you all??? A bunch of 'polenta-heads' or something.


Hey Ivano
I am reading Gore Vidal's novel
"JULIAN" (Roman Emperor 361 AD). Of coures the story is fiction but it is based historical fact. On Page 442 Julian supposely writes in his Journal about his fear (or lack of it)of being poisoned.

"I do occasionally wonder if my evening meal of polenta contains my death, but I never hesitate to eat it."

This proves that not even the fear of death will keep one away from his bowl of beloved polenta. SS

DA LARK said...

Buona sera Ivano, a dopo 1300 ore, cozi buono sera a proprio.

I want to add one more comment concerning polenta, then I think we have had an extremely good exchange. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, having descended from good Scottish and Irish folk. We grew corn, mostly white, from which polenta is made. We ate this corn boiled, some butter melted over, a bit of salt and pepper, with our teeth biting the grains from the cob. My Mother-in-law (soceria) made one visit to our house here in the States, she would not eat corn on the cob, that was for the pigs. Mostly we ate CORN Bread, baked in the oven with crust. In all of the comments concerning polenta, I do not remember a single comment about corn bread. My Mother-in-law loved it, with butter and especially with molasses. Add this to the polenta controversy.

Greta said...

benbeagleThis will make most of you cringe, at the very least. My husband's father came from Tramonti de Mezzo, or for the Furlani Vil di Meic (sp?).

My husband made polenta the traditional way for all his life. (Children stirred polenta on the black basement stove in Boston. Now he uses the microwave. I can't tell the difference, but what do I know. Important: he can't either.
4 Cups Water
1 1/2 Cups Coarse Corn Meal
Salt then Stir

Microwave for 5 to 8 minutes. That's it folks!


Ok this is the Canadian Furlan

Just a quick note regarding polenta. You must first have the correct ratio of water to polenta meal, general rule of thumb 1 cup of polenta meal ( coarse grain) to 3 cups of water, kosher salt to taste ( polenta must be a little salty) place salt into large pot with water, bring the water to boil and turn down heat to simmer slowly add polenta grain while wisking very quickly. Continue to add polenta meal and wisk .. continue stirring once it thickens and it's ready when it no longer sticks to the sides of the pot. I also add some grated Parmesan which adds to the taste... Polenta is best served with Stew or Rabbit Stew. We also make the polenta ahead of time place in large Pyrex dish 13" x 9" let it cool and next day slice into squares and place it on the BBQ with a little olive oil so they do not stick on the grill. Very Good and Healthy for you ...

Doriano "The Canadian Furlan"



All the talk about polenta is very interesting - I'll provide a little take from my insight:

The Friulani from the Province of Udine (Nimis) always said that polenta is a Venetian dish (Garibaldi cake). In fact, Liver and Polenta is a specialty in Venice. In Udine; however, polenta was always prepared as Doriano expressed with a rabbit stew or chicken. When the polenta was cooked we always cut it with a string and served with the stew. I also remember my mother eating it with milk. Just a little info from a Furlan.....




Beloved Polenta,

I agree with Thelma , Polenta should be put on a wooden slab , cut
with a STRING OR AN OLD PIECE of wire -- it makes it taste better .

To me the best meal in the world is fried polenta , with a good hard crust on it, served with a good piece of cheese , and a BIG glass of red wine.

Thats living it up. RENO

Canadian Furlan said...

It's me again. This Polenta controversy has ignited my Polenta juices... I will be making a large pot of polenta today with a beautifully prepared beef stew. There are as many Polenta receipes as their are cooks. I recall when we lived in Friuli my uncle going down to the local mulino ( mill) where they would pick up the freshly ground corn meal. And as was mentioned by Ivano there was the white meal as well. However for me like many, the yellow meal was much more preferred. And the cooking time of the polenta was very important. And as zia Lina mentioned back in Friul they would cook the polenta in a large black cast iron pot on those old wooden burning stoves, typical Friuli post WWII. They were the main focal point of all Furlan Kitchens. I have a photo of one. They had the top cast iron cook top with removable rings so you can remove them to fit your cast iron pot. The removing of the rings would allow your cast iron pot to fit over the burning fire below. They were extremely efficient for their time. I recall my Nonna cooking polenta on the stove and flopping the cooked polenta on a large wooden board and cutting it with string. The polenta was the filler, it replaced bread which was not readily available until the large ovens were introduced by the local bakeries which only produced bread nothing else.
I can still recall the aroma of the wooden fire mixed in with the beautiful aroma of the cooking polenta. And today in Friuli very few of the young generation make polenta.. can you believe they purchase it already made ?? The purchased polenta comes in those large tubes wrapped in clear plastic. Not for me I am a traditionalist I make it from scratch on the stove, mind you not a wood burning stove.
Take care keep the comments flowing. This will definitely motivate us to make polenta!
Ciao e Mandi
PS We have been experiencing quite the cold spell here in Niagara -5 Faharenheit!! so a nice pot of stew with polenta will warm us up!

Anonymous said...

This brings back great memories of my childhood and how much I took a POLENTA dish for granted.
Thank you for sharing...
norma (Cantarutti) Reiter

Anonymous said...

Good for you ivan my grannie la la taught me and i continue the same way .sometimes i will spread it out on cookie sheet chill and cut in diamind shapes fry . Drain on paper towel and dust with powder sugar my son lvedcit for breakfast also my brother lives it to

Anonymous said...

What does sempre mean thank you

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

7/31/2012 For Annoynous above. Sempre means always. I often use the phrase: Sempre Avanti: which means "Always Forward". SA IVNO