What you’re looking for is course, stone-ground, long-cooking polenta. Of course, you could use instant instead but it won’t taste quite the same.
Creamy Soft Polenta
- 2 cups milk
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups long cooking, course stone ground polenta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
In a medium size saucepan, bring the milk, water and bay leaf to a boil. Season generously with salt (start with a teaspoon and taste until you can really taste the salt). When it has reached a boil, slowly whisk in the polenta in small sprinkles. Don’t rush this step or you will end up with warm milk with a stiff lump of cornmeal in the center. Once all of the polenta has been incorporated, reduce heat to medium and start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the polenta for 30 to 40 minutes, adding water if the polenta becomes too thick to loosen it up.
Start to taste it after 30 minutes. When it’s done, the grains will be tender instead of gritty. Remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano (or Pecorino) and mascarpone. Serve it immediately, or place a sheet of plastic wrap right on the surface of the polenta to prevent a skin from forming on the top.
To reheat it, add a little water and heat over low, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
If you’re not in the mood to stir for 40 minutes, you could substitute the instant variety which is typically ready in 5-8 minutes. It has much less flavor but is still good in a pinch.
Pour any leftovers into a square baking pan. Refrigerate overnight, cut into triangles and fry in a little olive oil until it gets crisp.
If you don’t have mascarpone, use a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter instead.