Over medium-high heat, heat water in a large saucepan until it is almost boiling. Once the water begins to bubble, whisk in polenta. Stir continually until it begins to thicken. Season with salt to taste, then stir to combine.
Reduce heat to just below medium. Then continue to cook, stirring every 4-5 minutes, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan and becomes soft and tender. This will take approximately 40-45 minutes.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter if using it, and add salt if desired. Serve immediately as a side dish, or you can top it with your favorite savory main meal. (Succulent Braised Pork Roast or this Tuscan Meat Ragu are good choices.)
To make Fried Polenta, you will need cooked Creamy Polenta.
Using olive oil, grease an 8” by 8” glass baking dish. (Alternatively, you can spray it with a non-stick cooking spray.) Spread Creamy Polenta into a baking dish in an even layer. Cover and refrigerate until the cooked polenta is firm to the touch.
Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator. Using a butter knife, gently loosen around the edges. Put a paper towel on top of the polenta and use your hand to hold it in place. Gently turn over the dish, supporting the paper towel and polenta with your hand. Tap the bottom of the dish until the polenta fully releases.
Transfer (carefully) the solid piece of polenta to a cutting board. With a knife, cut the polenta into quarters, then cut each quarter piece in half diagonally so you end up with 8 wedges.
Next, over medium-high heat, add a little olive oil to a large, non-stick skillet. Add the 8 polenta wedges to the pan. Cook until golden brown on each side, which will take approximately 1-2 minutes per side. Remove the fried wedges from the heat and serve immediately with marinara sauce to dip or your favorite toppings.
To make Grilled Polenta, you will need cooked Creamy Polenta.
Repeat steps 1 – 3 above.
Using non-stick cooking spray, spray a grill pan or the grates of a gas grill. (If using a gas grill, clean the grates with a stiff wire brush before you spray the cooking spray.)
If using a regular grill, heat the grill pan over medium heat. If using a gas grill, pre-heat to medium. Take a little olive oil and carefully brush each side of the 8 polenta wedges with olive oil before placing them on the hot grill surface.
Cook each polenta wedge until they’re golden brown and grill marks appear. Flip and repeat on the other side. Remove the grilled wedges from the grill and serve immediately with your favorite toppings, with a hot bowl of soup, or in salads.