Polenta Nera (B-)

May 2, 2006 at 7:24 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Italian, Rebecca Wood)

Polenta nera means black polenta, although in actuality it’s more grey than black. In the north of Italy polenta made from buckwheat flour is a common “peasant” food. This recipe is from Rebecca Wood’s cookbook the Splendid Grain.

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together the flour and water until smooth. Combine the stock, salt, and 1 Tbs. of the oil in a heavy saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the flour mixture in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring as necessary, for about 7 minutes, or until quite thick and smooth. Pour into individual bowls as hot cereal (top with milk and maple syrup for breakfast), or pour into an ungreased pan, smooth the top, and let cool at room temperature until firm.

Cut the polenta into squares. Heat the remaining oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When warm, add the polenta squares. Fry for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

My notes:

Okay, I confess, I didn’t follow the recipe very closely. I thought it would be forgiving like regular corn polenta. So I just mixed it all together at once. But the texture was kind of like glue. Well, lumpy glue. And I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but lumpy glue doesn’t really “simmer.” So I kind of skipped that step. I tried a little porridge-style and the flavor wasn’t unpleasant–a very mild kasha taste. The texture was like over-mashed mashed potatoes though. Yuck. So I let the polenta cool and cut it into slices. I’m not sure if I didn’t let it cool long enough, or what, but the slices were much more sticky and less firm than regular polenta. But I formed about 16 “pieces”. Again, I didn’t follow the directions about frying, but put put 1/2 Tbs. oil down on a cookie sheet, then drizzled the other half over the top. I baked them at 500 degrees until they were crisp (about 15 minutes I think), then flipped them and cooked until the other side was crisp. I originally placed my cookie sheet on top of a cast iron pan to get it closer to the heating element, but then only the polenta on the edges was crisping so I removed it and it cooked more evenly.

In the end the top and bottom of the polenta got nice and crisp, but unlike corn polenta the inside stayed sort of soft and gooey. I really liked the crispy outside, and the contrast with the soft inside wasn’t unpleasant. I had to add extra salt though. 1/4 tsp. just didn’t cut it. I think if I make this again I will try 3/4 tsp. salt. But besides that follow the directions 🙂

So I liked the crispy polenta okay, but when I tried reheating in the toaster the next day it wasn’t particularly good. So I’d rate the porridge a D, the original broiled version a B-, and the reheated version a C.

Nutritional info for 4 pieces (of 16):
Calories 160
Total Fat 7.7g
Saturated Fat 1.1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 295mg
Carbohydrate 21.2g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 0.8g
Protein 3.8g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%
Iron 7%

Rating: B-


  1. Maureen said,

    I just made this; more/less followed the directions but put in a bit too much salt. It’s not lumpy so maybe prep does matter. Otherwise it’s pretty much exactly as you say, though I fried the polenta in olive oil rather than bake it. The fried polenta, while it has a sort of nice buckwheat/kasha taste, is mushy in the middle. I topped it with an Italian cheese blend…that helped, but still not something I’d serve…

    • captious said,

      Hi Maureen,

      I’m glad to know that the mushy/gluey texture is not just a result of my poor direction following.


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