Sunday, March 15, 2009

Il Paiolo

Click on the little triangle to start the video.
This paiolo, or automated polenta pot, makes me happy. I know, I know -- to a lot of people, watching this video is about as much fun as watching dishes dry. But to me (and maybe to some of you foodies out there) it's like Christmas all over again.
I'd been oogling an automated polenta pot on my last five or six visits to the Alto Adige region of Italy where we go skiing. But every time I went, I nixed the idea of buying one for one reason or another -- too big to fit in the carry-on luggage, too difficult to convert to U.S. electric standards, too expensive, blah, blah, blah.

But this time I gave in to the object of my desire. It's a really heavy gauge copper pot with a metal paddle that stirs the polenta automatically thanks to an electric motor on top that l'ingeniere (my husband, the engineer) derides as puny and not durable. It cost 45 euros (about $63) and was cheaper than I'd seen it even five years ago.
That's because the electric motor on top is puny and not durable, repeats l'ingeniere.

I bought it anyway. The copper pot alone would cost that in the states. And it works great. And I love it. And I know l'ingeniere secretly loves it too. Because he loves anything mechanical. Because the day after we got back he ordered the step-up transformer I needed to run it. And because he loves the polenta it churns out.

All you have to do is put cornmeal, water and salt into the bowl over a burner, attach the paddle, press a button and walk away. Sixty minutes later you've got really good, really creamy polenta. Who wouldn't love that?

We took it up to Vermont with us a few days ago while visiting friends. I used it for a dinner of polenta with sausages, meatballs and short ribs in tomato sauce. It was a no-fuss meal and perfect for after skiing, since I had made the sauce at home earlier in the week. We sat back and relaxed with some wine and munchies while the sauce heated up and the polenta pot performed its magic. An hour later we sat down to this:
I used three parts water to one part polenta and about 1/2 tsp. salt. You can have the same results without a motorized polenta pot, but you'll have to stir for 45 minutes to an hour.
I confess that in the past, I've used that quick-cooking polenta too and it's really not bad. But no self-respecting Italian would ever use that, so please don't tell any of my Italian friends or they may never invite me back. I'll be posting the recipe for the sauce (which is great with pasta too) in the next few days.

Here's a second video showing what it looks like when the polenta is fully cooked.


  1. This is great!
    I use regular polenta and stir it with my strong arms! I never use a mix master, even for cakes!

    I am old school (plus too lazy to bring up the KitchenAid from the basement!).

    I am a new lover of polenta!

  2. What a great idea! I need to make some polenta, and I was just thinking about how much stirring was going to be involved. I didn't even know this existed.

  3. How funny I just added a draft for polenta to my blog this morning. Mine the old way, stir stir and stir some more. Great Idea!

  4. Does it really work? I mean REALLY work? Because, if so, it's on my wish list too.

    I made a rabbit sauce/stew (at the same dinner party that I served your delicious Lemon Tiramisu) and wanted to serve it over polenta, but didn't want to be standing over the stove for an hour whilst guests were here, so served it with rice. (Dan and I usually take shifts on the stirring.)

    Last question - I'm guessing that the motor is detachable, right? So you could use that lovely copper pot for all sorts of other things.

  5. Yes, it really, really works. And the motor is detachable. I was thinking though that I could even use the pot and motor for making vegetable soup or chili or anything else that needs to be stirred periodically. But the pot alone is really a thick solid copper vessel.

  6. Wow! As you said the copper pot alone would cost as much here as you paid for the complete set! Can you use it to make risotto too?

    Yummy meal!

  7. Linda this is priceless! I'll never forget visiting friends in Massachusetts many years ago, and we all took turns stirring my friend's polenta in a big copper pot she'd bought when she took a polenta class shortly before my visit.

    But why is it that when I make polenta (and not with the instant corn), it seems like it's cooked after maybe 10 minutes? I use at least as much liquid as called for, but it very quickly seems to be ready, and as thick as I would want it.

    So I stop cooking it, and when I take it off the heat, it really does seem to be done. As you can imagine, I don't resist this, being happy about being spared another upteen minutes of stirring (and being splattered by hot corn, boy that hurts!).

    A culinary mystery to me!

  8. Love the paiolo. Hadn't seen one of these before...or a polenta so creamy. Looks great!

  9. Thanks for your review! I was looking into this exact paiolo, but held off thinking, for that price it couldn't be great. It's on my wishlist now!