(especially in Italian cooking) a thick mush of cornmeal.

1555–65; < Italian < Latin: hulled and crushed grain, especially barley

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World English Dictionary
polenta (pəʊˈlɛntə)
a thick porridge made in Italy, usually from maize
[C16: via Italian from Latin: pearl barley, perhaps from Greek palē pollen]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

O.E., from L., lit. "peeled barley," related to pollen "fine flour." Later reborrowed from It. polenta, from the L. word (see pollen).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


a porridge or mush usually made of ground corn (maize) cooked in salted water. Cheese and butter or oil are often added. Polenta can be eaten hot or cold as a porridge; or it can be cooled until firm, cut into shapes, and then baked, toasted, panfried, or deep-fried. It is a traditional food of northern Italy, especially the Piedmont region, and of Corsica, where chestnut flour is used in place of cornmeal. Polenta is also sometimes made from barley meal

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Mound polenta on dinner plates or in shallow bowls and ladle vegetable ragout
  over polenta.
Serve the ribs with creamy mashed potatoes or polenta and crusty bread.
Ratatouille makes a great main dish when served over pasta, grilled
  artisan-style bread, or polenta.
The sauce made from the drippings begs for polenta or potatoes.
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