Can any of you dagos help me out?

I am supposed to avoid wheat and milk to keep allergies in check, and so far I have had really good success... until I cave into pasta or something equally yummy. I've been looking for wheat/gluten substitutes and I found this stuff called "mush" [Image: tongue.gif] and it has a recipe for polenta. But the recipe on the package sounds kind of "cheesy," no pun intended. "Italian sauce and cheese." Indeed.

Is there such a critter as real polenta and does the weird stuff in the plastic tube in the Dairy section of the grocery store actually approximate it? I googled it and the recipes were so all over the place that I can't figure out what the real deal is.

Thanks in advance! :)
S.A.G. ~ Kathy ~ Sanguine-choleric. Have fun...or else.

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
Well I'm not Italian, but I've made Polenta before.  I don't make it very often though, because my husband hates it. [Image: eyes.gif]  It's quite simply, coarsely ground cornmeal, a lot like grits.  Look for it in the health food section with the bulk items, or packaged (a brand like Bob's Red Mill.)  Anything in a tube sounds pretty scary to me, but what do I know.  I'd stick to cooking it from scratch.

My husband shudders at the thought, but you can eat it plain, with butter, put cheese in it, sauce over it, or you can even pour it out in a pan, cut slices when it cools and fry the slices until the outsides are crispy.  The insides stay creamy and moist and it is de-lish.
My girlfriend lives in an area of Italy where they eat polenta practically every day. From my experience, the preparations I've had are all very simple -and not with any cheese or butter. It's really pretty plain fare and they seem to like it that way. You might consider this preperation which I like the best so far (excellent with grilled meats, like pork):

Get yourself to a specialty grocer who carries real polenta from Italy (I use a brand called Golden Pheasant). It's not that expensive. It's basically just cornmeal. Follow the directions and you're gonna get something with the consistancy of thin porridge. Pour it into a shallow pan (so it's about 3/4's of an inch thick) and let it cool. Slice into thick strips, brush with olive oil, and grill or barbecue it til you get nice dark grill marks.

It's really filling. If you decide to do the grilled meat and polenta thing, what's really good as a vegetable side dish is throw a halved radicchio on the grill as well and let it get really dark. Drizzle it with olive oil and a bit of salt and red pepper. Mmm!!!
The stuff in the tube is pretty much the same thing. Polenta, mush -- all the same, it's all in how you dress it up. To eat it Italian style, do it with cheese and/or marinara and/or vegetables or whatever -- grilled, fried, straight-up in a bowl; another way to eat it is American Midwest style -- fried, with butter and maple syrup on top. Good stuff any way you do it...
I can't add much to what has already been said about polenta. But, if you are craving pasta, you might also try some types of Asian noodles, such as rice noodles or soba (made from buckwheat flour). Unless of course, what you are really craving is Italian food, in which case polenta topped with butter and Parmesan or with a mushroom ragout probably comes closer than Pad Thai or Yakisoba.

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