Polenta taragna is a mixture of cornmeal and buckwheat flour, typical to the Valtellina in Lombardia. It’s name derives from Tarela, the long stick traditionally used to stir the polenta.
One of the most requested dishes in the Valtellina province of Lombardia is Polenta Taragna. Depending to the area, it differs only in the use of the regional cheeses, with buckwheat-flour being the main ingredient.
The original Valtellina cuisine is very simple and was one that had to be prepared quickly, due to the hard work on the fields from early morning to sunset. Rye, corn, buckwheat, barley, millet, potatoes, nuts, chestnuts and cheese were the most available products. Buckwheat is not a cereal grain but is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb. This makes it a great grain substitute for people sensitive to wheat or other grains that contain protein glutens. Small red and white buckwheat flowers produce a seed similar to a sunflower seed, with a hard outer shell and soft inner meat. This seed is ground to make the flour.
Although more a winter food, prepared with a lot of butter and cheese, polenta taragna is also enjoyed during the warm season. Served hot, the polenta taragna can be accompanied with thickly sliced salami, sautéed fresh pork sausages, with mushrooms and onions, sage leaves and garlic or with butter/OO and crushed anchovies.
Ingredients for 4 persons:
- 1 C. buckwheat flour
- 1/2 C. coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
- 4 T. butter
- 4 oz. Bitto cheese (or another semi-soft cheese such as Gruyere or Fontina), thinly sliced or chopped
- 5 C. of cold water
- fresh sage
- garlic, coarsely chopped or sliced
To make the polenta:
In a heavy medium soup pot, bring the water and 2 T. of butter to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and slowly and steadily stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk, add first the yellow corn flour and then the buckwheat flour. Reduce the heat, cook about 40 min. or until the polenta is thick and creamy, stirring very often. Add more water as needed.
Remove the polenta from the heat. Stir in the remaining butter and the cheese. Return the polenta to the heat to melt all of the cheese, stirring constantly.
To make the butter/sage topping:
Remove the sage leaves from the stems. Rinse and dry with a paper towel. Melt butter in a sauté pan, add the garlic and sage leaves. Cook over low heat until the garlic has softened (not burnt) and the butter has lightly browned.
Serve hot in a traditional style on a board, onto warmed plates, or bowls. Drizzle with the garlic sage butter.