Polenta is an Italian food that can be used as side dish or a main dish, depending on what you choose to top it with. Typically it can be high in fat if made with butter and cheeses. The polenta that you find is the store is in a tube and pre-cooked. It is economical and can be bought with or without herbs. It is easy to prepare; it requires only a little frying and adding a topping of your choice.
Polenta is made from cornmeal, water and butter. You can buy a corn flour called Polenta but it is still just cornmeal and will be more expensive.
If you like a smooth texture, use a fine cornmeal. A fine cornmeal will produce more lumps. So, add the cornmeal slowly, whisking the whole time it is cooking to prevent a lumping problem. If you like a heavy, grainy texture uses course cornmeal.
I like to buy the store bought, pre-prepared polenta. It is round and can be sliced into 1 inch thick slices and sautéed in butter, margarine or olive oil. Just follow the instructions on the package.
If you make homemade polenta, you will probably use a loaf pan that measures 8 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches. Spray the loaf pan with cooking spray and then pour in hot polenta, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When completely chilled; cut into 1 inch slices and sauté the slices in 1 Tablespoon butter or oil until lightly browned. Polenta can also be served as soon as you make it. Spoon it while still hot unto a plate and garnish as desired.
Polenta plates up nicely with a piece of grilled chicken or fish. It really looks nice when vegetables and or sauces are used as toppings.
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