What It Means To Eat Polenta The 'Pucio' Way

Simple, creamy, and satisfying, a humble dish of polenta may not be much to look at, but the addition of this cooked cornmeal side can bring easy comfort to mealtimes. Simply prepared polenta is a dish that can find its way into breakfast spreads and dinner tables. With basic additions of butter, salt, and olive oil, it can confidently hold its own with meaty sauces, breakfast omelets, and even summertime salads. 

As with many ingredients as versatile as polenta, adaptations have sprung up around the globe in the way this dish is plated and served. In the north Italian city of Bergamo, polenta takes on forms ranging from fried and grilled sticks to ladles of steaming liquid. One street-food bistro in the city, named PolentOne, serves up polenta that can be eaten on the go, and customers choose orders of plain or cheese-topped polenta garnished with local ingredients like Italian sausages and wild boar sauce. PolentOne's owner Marco Pirovano told CNN Travel that locals have a specific way of enjoying polenta. "We like to have it the 'pucio' way," he explained, "with a hole in the middle to pour sauce or broth that soaks up inside." Pirovano told Tasting Table, "'Pucio' is the condiment sauce (usually beef) that is placed in the upper part of the polenta as if it were the crater of a volcano." In this way, polenta is both a star and a supporting actor in the culinary show.

Maximize taste with strategic plating

For Pirovano, texture matters as much as the flavor of the polenta itself. "Polenta in Bergamo must be so thick and dense it glues to the plate if you turn it over and can be sliced with a string," he said. With a platform of this rich, gooey dish paired with your favorite toppings, it is no wonder this recipe is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. In fact, Pirovano has made a special polenta-making machine to accommodate the speed of orders at his restaurant so plates can be quickly topped and made to serve. 

Even if you can't board a plane to Italy, you can still prepare a dish of creamy polenta that would be approved of by Pirovano and his team. Just don't forget to create an indentation in the middle of your serving so that you can scoop up every last drop of flavor in your meal, regardless of whether you dress it up with ragu saucegarlic butter shrimp, or any other protein-packed topping.