Whipping up some tasty polenta.
Whipping up some tasty polenta.

I don’t consider myself much of a cook. To be honest, it’s something I rarely do and try to avoid. But I do love food and love learning about the history of dishes, the process of making them and, of course, getting to try them. And I’m obsessed with the Food Network.

Gone are the days when free satellite let me watch FoodTV all day long. Nowadays, I get my fix from catching snippets of food related shows on other stations or running down to my mom’s where, although she hasn’t subscribed to it, she does get a fuzzy version of the station. Sure, sometimes I have to squint to see what it is that’s being made…but it’s there and I’ll take it.

One of my favourite chefs on the channel is Giada DeLaurentiis. Love her! Love the simplicity in her meals and the way she can italianize anything! While growing up, my nonna used to make us polenta every now and again.

Polenta is made from ground cornmeal and is added slowly to water over the stovetop, patiently stirring until it reaches a creamy consistency, kind of like porridge.

Corn Meal
Corn Meal

Polenta was popular in the north of Italy. While the south had their fields of wheat to make pasta, the north had grains to make polenta.  It is centuries old and was normally a dish for peasants.

Originally, the ancient Romans used the native grains in the area to make the polenta but in the 15th or 16th century a new crop was introduced, maize, and it could be easily grown by farmers. Until recently, it was mainly a dish for the poor, but now you can find it in restaurants or in the grocery aisles.

My nonna used to add homemade tomato sauce to it and I always thought that was the only way to eat it. Until Giada. She whipped up a creamy, herbed polenta that looked so delicious on screen (even through the fuzz) I had to try it. So I downloaded the recipe and let me tell you, it is the best polenta I’ve ever had and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to tomato-based polenta again (sorry nonna!)

Polenta...the finished product.

Giada’s version is richer than using just tomato sauce. She adds milk, butter and Parmeggiano cheese which gives it a great creamy, rich taste. And by adding the fresh herbs, it gives the dish a fresh flavour. Try it out!

Herbed Polenta
Recipe courtesy Giada DeLaurentiis (

6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup grated Parmeggiano
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. (I find using a whisk helps). Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, milk, butter, parsley, rosemary, thyme and pepper. Stir until the butter and cheese melt. Transfer the polenta to a bowl and serve!