Polenta Taragna: The Authentic Northern Italian Recipe

Polenta Taragna is a typical dish of Valtellina, a mountainous region of Lombardy. In this preparation they mix yellow cornmeal with buckwheat flour (usually 2/3 buckwheat and 1/3 cornmeal). Then, while cooking the polenta, they add local cheese and butter. The result is a polenta with a silky texture and irresistible creaminess.

The name “taragna” comes from the Valtellina dialect “tarare” (“girare, mescolare” in Italian, “to stir” in English). In fact, during the preparation, the polenta is stirred constantly with a wooden tool called “tarai” or “tarel” to prevent it from sticking to the copper pot (“paiolo”) hanging in the fireplace.

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You can enjoy the hot, stringy polenta taragna on its own, as a main course, or as an accompaniment to sausages and meat. It’s a very rich and definitely hearty dish, suitable for the winter season or perhaps after a long hike in the mountains.

Buckwheat is a completely gluten-free, often used in typical Italian mountain recipes. Such as the famous Pizzoccheri from Valtellina or the Buckwheat Cake typical of Trentino Alto Adige.

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The presence of buckwheat is responsible for the typical dark color and pleasant rustic nutty taste of Taragna polenta. The cheese traditionally used for Taragna is Valtellina Casera. This is a very local cheese, but as we will see, if you cannot find it, you can substitute it with other typical Italian cheeses with a semi-hard texture, such as Bitto, Fontina or Branzi. Many people use Taleggio cheese.

Find out how to make the authentic Italian polenta taragna recipe by following my step-by-step instructions! You will enjoy a genuine polenta taragna like that of the mountain huts of Valtellina!

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Ingredients

  • Prep Time: 10 Min
  • Cook Time: 50 Min
  • Servings: 4

  • 400 g (2 1/2 cups) of polenta taragna. Or you can use 2/3 buckwheat flour + 1/3 cornmeal
  • 2 liters (8 1/2 cups) of water
  • 10 grams (~3/4 tablespoon) of coarse salt
  • 300 g (10,5 0z) of semi-fat cheese. I used Casera DOP cheese, but you can substitute it with other typical Italian cheeses, such as Bitto, Fontina or Branzi. Many people use Taleggio cheese.
  • 125 g (~1 stick) of unsulted butter

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Kitchen Tools and Equipment

Preparing polenta taragna requires a few key kitchen tools to ensure the best results. Here’s a list of useful tools for this dish:

  • A heavy-bottomed or copper polenta pot: A heavy-bottomed pot is essential for even heat distribution and to prevent the polenta from sticking or burning. A traditional copper polenta pot called a “paiolo” is often used in Italy.
  • Wooden Spoon or Polenta Stirrer: A long-handled wooden spoon or special polenta stirrer (also known as a “canj”) is essential for constantly stirring the polenta, which is key to achieving the right texture.
  • Ladle: To serve the polenta taragna, a ladle is helpful for scooping and serving.
  • Whisk: The whisk is essential for stirring the polenta as you pour it into the water. The whisk prevents lumps from forming.
  • Cutting board and knife: These are essential for cutting the cheese into pieces.

These tools will help you effectively prepare and cook polenta taragna, ensuring a delicious and authentic result. Remember, the key to good polenta is continuous stirring, so a comfortable stirrer and a sturdy pot make a big difference.

How to Make Polenta Taragna Recipe: Instructions

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Step 1) – Bring 2 liters (8 1/2 cups) of water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed or copper polenta pot. When it boils, reduce the heat to low and add 10 grams (~3/4 tablespoon) of coarse salt. Then slowly pour in the 400 grams (2 1/2 cups) of polenta taragna flour, stirring quickly with a whisk.

PLEASE NOTE: This step is perhaps the most important for a successful polenta taragna. If you keep the heat low, add the flour slowly, and stir quickly with a whisk (NOT a spoon, a WHISK), no lumps will form in the polenta.

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Step 2) – When the water has taken up all the polenta, start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 50 minutes/1 hour.

You must stir the polenta taragna frequently, at least every 2-3 minutes. The polenta cooking this long will stick to the pot, especially to the bottom. This is fine. It will be even tastier!

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Step 3) – While the polenta is cooking, remove the rind from the cheese and cut it into small pieces. Cut the butter into pieces as well.

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Step 4) – 10 minutes before the end of cooking, add the cheese first and then the butter.

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Step 5) – Stir until the cheese and butter have melted and incorporated. Turn off the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Pour the polenta taragna into a large bowl or serving dish and serve piping hot accompanied by my delicious Brasato al Barolo or Spezzatino with Mushrooms.

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How to Store Polenta Taragna

Proper storage of polenta taragna is essential to maintain its texture and flavor. Here are the steps to effectively store it:

After cooking, allow polenta taragna to cool to room temperature.

Then place the cooled polenta in an airtight container. If you have a large amount, consider dividing it into smaller portions for easier reheating.
In the refrigerator, polenta taragna will keep for 3-5 days.

If you don’t plan to eat the polenta within a few days, you can freeze it. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then place it in a freezer bag or airtight container. Label it with the date, as polenta taragna will keep in the freezer for up to a month.

When you’re ready to eat the polenta again, you can reheat it in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven.

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