Boiled, baked, grilled, fried or even room-temperature, polenta is one of those dishes that is incredibly flexible in it’s methods and recipe! You can top it with almost anything and serve it any season. When it’s hot and steamy outside, serve it room temperature with a caprese salad topping. In the winter, you can serve it piping hot to warm you from the inside out.
Polenta in the pressure cooker is very controversial in Italy – where risotto is commonly made this way. Polenta is the ultimate slow-food and both Italian foodies and grandmas have strong opinions about each method. The battle field is divided between true polenta purists, who insist on only making polenta in a copper cauldron over an open fire stirring constantly with an oar-type spoon; the semi-purists who use non-stick pasta pots with a wooden spoon on their stove-top ; the innovators who toss a top on the pan, lower the flame and do not stir at all; and the pressure cookers who say that “ it all comes out the same in the end so why not make it faster?”
Polenta in the pressure cooker is so much like the original that I recommend the purists stop shining their cauldrons and sanding their oars to taste the results from the pressure cooker before passing further judgment.
5 Ways to Serve Pressure Cooker Polenta
Follow the basic polenta recipe, or suggested modifications below, when you open the top, stir in a little milk and butter. Pour it out of the pan into individual serving dishes, serve immediately and top with the vegetable or meat of your choice.
Solid Polenta – for hot days!
Follow the basic polenta recipe, and when you open the top, pour the contents into a large wide heat-safe baking dish (I use a 9×13″ Pyrex casserole with the basic recipe, below) flattening with a spatula as you go because it begins to solidify quickly. Let it cool for about an hour, and then either cut into little rectangles or use cookie shapes to cut out fun shapes for your kids or guests. Then, top with your favorite topping and serve!
Follow the instructions for creamy or solid polenta, above, and either place the individual heat-proof dishes in the oven or the cut shapes on a cookie sheet brushed with a little olive oil or melted butter. Bake at 200c or 350F until crispy, not brown, around the edges.
Follow the instructions for the solid polenta (above) and then place brush the shapes, or rectangles with a little olive oil (or whatever marinade you are using for your BBQ) and place on the grill until the exterior is lightly browned.
Fried Polenta – for kids!
Follow the instructions for the solid polenta (above) and cut the polenta into 1/2″ or 2cm thick sticks and either pan or deep-fry in vegetable oil until lightly golden and crispy on the outside. Serve with ketchup, or yogurt with herbs dipping sauces.
Perfecting Pressure Cooker Polenta
In my quest for the perfect pressure cooker polenta recipe I scorched the bottom of my pressure cooker quite severely following the instructions from several Italian websites; I got a solid, chunky mess when following American recipes; and, a gelatinus glob with an undercooked pasty center from the highly recommended pot-in-pan method on a pressure cooking mailing list.
Then… I found an abandoned Italian Blog, Ricette Maledette (Damn Recipes), where the writer shared their grandmother Serena’s technique for making perfect pressure cooker polenta. The key is to close the lid once the polenta starts bubbling. Following this method, and perfecting it with my own timing and ratio, I was able to finally succeed where many before me had not. Even Lorna Sass, the Pressure Cooker Queen of the 90’s and 2000’s said it couldn’t be done. Now, it can. However, it will leave a little scorching on the bottom of your pressure cooker pan – just like a cauldron on an open fire would.
Don’t worry… cleaning instructions are included in the recipe and it’s very easy to do!
|Pressure Cooker||Accessories||Pr. Cook Time||Pr. Level||Open|
|6 L or larger||none||8 min.||High(2)||Slow Normal|
- 2 cups coarse polenta corn flour (also known as "bramata")
- 8 cups liquid (water, broth, or a mix of water and milk)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Fill the pressure cooker with liquid and bring it to a boil on a high flame and add the salt.
- When the salt has melted, drizzle the polenta flour a little at a time while stirring clock-wise (you can choose any direction, but stick to it so that the polenta flour does not glop together).
- Give it a final stir to keep it moving and quickly close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker.
- Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
- Electric pressure cookers and stove top pressure cookers: Cook for 8 minutes at high pressure.
- When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Slow Normal release - release the pressure very slowly. If the release speed cannot be regulated by your cooker's valve, simply release pressure in short bursts. If anything other than steam comes out of the valve, stop and wait 10 seconds before continuing to release pressure slowly (or in small bursts), again.
- Stir vigorously and transfer to individual dishes, or pour out on a wooden cutting board or follow one of the methods suggested above.
- After removing as much polenta as possible, immediately pour 1 cup of white vinegar in the still-warm pan and fill with as much hot water from the sink as you need to cover the remaining polenta that will be stuck to the bottom.
- Let it sit for a couple of hours, even better if overnight.
- Most of it should have come off quite
easily,if there is anything still stuck tackle it with a plastic scrubby-sponge.
Pep-up The Basic Polenta Recipe
Do not use all of these suggestions at the same time, please!
- Substitute a small portion of the water with milk, cream, or stock/broth.
- If you have the skin of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano in the back of your fridge throw it into the water as you bring it to a boil. Remove with tongs (and put in a baggie in the freezer to conserve for your next polenta) before adding the polenta flour.
- Add a mix of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, sage, thyme”) to the boiling water before adding the polenta
- Add a Bay Laurel leaf to the boiling water before adding the polenta – remove before serving
- Chop a salami, prosciutto, or pancetta in small cubes and add to the boiling water before adding the polenta flour.
Suggested Toppings for Creamy Polenta
– a simple grating of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
– sauteed sausage chunks and onion slivers
– mixed mushrooms and garlic in a red-wine reduction with a sprinkle of fresh parsley
– meat sauce
– roast or stewed beef, pork, chicken, or rabbit
– ground walnuts, gorgonzola and truffle flakes (or oil)
– sauteed spinach or greens with garlic
– pressure-cooked tomato lentils
Suggested Toppings for Solid Polenta
– a caprese salad
– pan-seared zucchini and garlic with fresh tomato cubes
Suggested Toppings for Oven-Baked Polenta
-Make white polenta, and serve a warm rectangle with seafood in place of rice or pasta.
– Add toppings noted for the creamy polenta, above.
-Add toppings before baking: place whole fresh sage leaves on each shape, and then put Gorgonzola, or any blue cheese, on top before putting in the oven.
-Turn it into a polenta “lasagna” by pouring out the polenta in layers in a casserole dish alternating layers of polenta with mozzarella cubes and tomato sauce