The word “polenta” derives from the Latin word puls (plural pultes). During Ancient Rome, polenta was made with farro, a hard and bigger cereal than modern wheat. Puls was made by stone-crushing the grains into a coarse meal then slowly cooking it by mixing with milk, cheese, or lamb meat. Puls was known throughout Italy and the Roman writer Apicio wrote about puls punica, a sweet recipe made with farro puls, cheese, honey, and eggs.
Corn makes its appearance in the Italian peninsula thanks to the merchants of the Republic of Venice, who introduced corn to the lagoon area of Polesine (today’s Rovigo) as well as the fertile Valsugana. According to many researchers, the first plantation of corn in the lagoon of Venice dates back to the mid 1550s. From then on, after successfully growing, corn plantations spread rapidly west throughout the entire Pianura Padana and East towards Friuli.
Initally the corn cobs used to be boiled and grilled. A few decades later in Polesine, abundant corn crops began to be hanged under roofs and awnings in order for it to be dried and ground. The flour immediately became a subsitute to grain puls, and mixed with water over fire to create the soft mash batter we now know as Polenta.
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