CARMELA HAYES COLUMN: Bringing out the promise of polenta... with a pizza

If I excitedly mutter the word ‘polenta’, the response I normally receive is a grunt of utter disappointment and dread, writes Carmela Hayes.

By Janet Bew (edited by)
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 8:26 am
Updated Thursday, 20th January 2022, 8:28 am
Transform polenta into a delicious pizza
Transform polenta into a delicious pizza

This saddens me desperately because polenta is not only filling and inexpensive, but it’s warming, full of flavour and just perfect for this time of year.

The key to polenta is flavour, literally pump it with flavour.

At home, my children call it Italian mash so for them they know no different at all.

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Polenta is always a winner because of how I choose to make and almost whip it.

There are two forms of polenta: the slow cook (Bramata) which takes approx 45 minutes and is superior if time allows, and then there’s the quick cook varieties taking roughly eight minutes.

Polenta is so incredibly versatile. From using the grain in a delicious polenta cake (as per my first cookbook ‘Southern Italian Family Cooking’) from mixing the grain with breadcrumbs and coating either chicken pieces or fish prior to frying, or by making my soft whipped milk polenta. Silky in texture with a reassuring, smooth mellow flavour.

The secret, as I mentioned above, is making sure you add lots of flavour and also when making the polenta to use a whisk when stirring and not a wooden spoon because you need to eradicate any chance that gritty lumps will form.

So, if I said polenta pizza to you, I wonder if you would say yay or nay?

As polenta is gluten free it means that a mid-week pizza it not only simple, but it’s also kinder to your tummy too.

The way you prepare the base for the polenta pizza is a little different to the whipped polenta because we need it to be spreadable but not too wet that it just pools.

I urge you to have a go and let me know what you think. Here is my delicious and preferred way to use and make flavoursome polenta pizza.

Polenta pizza

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time 15 minutes

Pre-heat oven: 190C

800ml stock (or milk)

200g instant polenta

Salt & pepper, to season

1 tsp marjoram or oregano

25g butter (I use salted)

80g Parmigiano, grated

Pizza sauce (your choice)

250g mozzarella, roughly torn

Fresh basil, to scatter

1. Warm the stock or milk in a shallow pan.

2. Gently whisk in the polenta. Continue to whisk as this will disperse any lumps. If whisking is too labour intensive, then use a wooden spoon with a hole in the centre. Beat the polenta and ensure you cook out the grains.

3. Cook for approximately eight minutes.

4. Season well with salt and pepper.

5. Add the butter and 50g of the grated Parmigiano. Stir and taste for additional seasoning.

6. Take two pre-lined baking trays and spoon on the polenta using a spatula to make four round disks to the size of a small dinner plate (approx 20cm in diameter).

7. Spoon on some pizza sauce and sprinkle over a little freshly torn mozzarella.

8. Bake for 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven.

9. Grate over some Parmigiano and sprinkle with fresh basil.

10. Slice and enjoy with a rocket salad and drizzle of balsamic.

Carmela’s tip: Use the mozzarella water from the bag of fresh mozzarella in the polenta for added flavour.