The dazzling yellow polenta most of us are familiar with is not the grain that previous generations of Northern Italians knew. Modern polenta has been de-germed so it lasts a long time after milling, but the flavor and texture have taken a hit. Since 2000, a small group of farmers, chefs, and millers have been working to bring heirloom polenta back from near-extinction. They’ve revived an old variety called Floriani red flint corn—after drying and milling, it’s essentially whole-grain cornmeal. Red flint polenta is toothsome, full of rich flavor, and has striking looks. It also takes 3 hours to cook, so be patient. The results—whether you add cheese and butter or eat it plain—are worth it.
What to buy: You can buy red flint polenta online from Community Grains, a small milling company in Northern California.
For an extra-rich alternative: