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Instant Polenta

Asked by CUDDIS. Answered on 4th January 2012

Full question

I would like to make the Venetian Lasagne from Kitchen (p337). The recipe calls for instant polenta, and to cook it "according to the packet instructions" with stock, butter and Parmesan. However, the instant polenta I can get at my local supermarket says to boil it in the bag, or grill it in slices. Can I just cook this type of polenta as Nigella describes?

Our answer

The instant polenta used by Nigella in the Venetian Lasagne is the grain type that cooks very quickly. It may be labelled as "quick cook" polenta instead of "instant". The type of ready-made polenta sold in plastic wrapped blocks is not really suitable for this recipe.

Traditional polenta often needs simmering for 20 to 30 minutes before the grains are fully cooked and the polenta becomes thick. Quick cook polenta uses grains that have already beeen partially cooked and although it is added to hot liquid in the same manner as traditional polenta it usually only needs simmering for a couple of minutes before it is ready.

Many supermarkets sell the "instant" or "quick cook" variety (usually in the pasta section) and it is also available at some Italian delis and Carluccio's stores in the UK. The best thing to do is to check the cooking instructions on the package. If you can't get the quick cooking variety then use traditional polenta in the same quantities and cook it according to the instructions on the package. It will take longer to cook but will set ito solid "sheets" when it cools, in the same way as the quick cooking polenta.

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