It is cornmeal that is made from ground maize. Polenta is an Italian word which means crushed grains. Polenta is very famous in the Italian cuisine and is eaten as a hot-side dish. It is either eaten directly or is consumed baked, grilled or fried. It has a rich yellow colour, and has a slight sweet taste. Polenta can be in ground coarse form or fine powder.
Polenta takes a long time to cook. It is cooked by simmering in any water-based liquid. Most commonly used cereal is maize though buckwheat, white wheat and other varieties are also used to prepare polenta. Polenta is also used a base for many vegetarian dishes and toppings.
Cooked polenta is made into different shapes like balls or sticks, and then fried in oil or grilled until they turn golden brown. Ideally it should be cooked in a copper pot, which adds a different flavour to the recipe. Uncooked polenta can be used as a substitute for wheat.
Very often cooked polenta is allowed to freeze, which will harden into a dough-like structure. Then, cooks cut the hardened structure into fine squares and are baked.
Polenta is similar to traditional American dish grits. Though both are made from corn, white corn is usually used to prepare grits. It is also chemically treated. There is a subtle difference in the flavors, but both are cooked in the same way.