Polenta, when it's good, is luscious and creamy and nutty. When it's bad it's watery and soupy. Let's not even talk about bad polenta, because it's really easy to make well. You don't even have to stand there stirring the entire time-- just whisk well at the beginning and give it a few good whirls every few minutes. And despite what some recipes may say, you can use any grind cornmeal you have on hand. Traditional polenta is made with coarse ground cornmeal for more of a bite, but I used fine ground and it turned out delicious (I had a lot leftover from a misguided tamale pie a long, long time ago). You know it's done when it's thick and just starts pulling away from the sides of the pot as you stir (unless you're making firm polenta, which I will save for another post).
4 1/2c water
1/2c sharp cheddar cheese
Boil water & salt. Lower heat to medium and gradually whisk in cornmeal. Keep whisking until lumps disappear. Lower heat to low. Cook, whisking vigorously every few minutes. After 15-20 minutes, when the polenta is thick and starts to pull away from the pot, whisk in cheese (and butter, if you want) and remove. Add salt and pepper to taste.
At this point, you could let the polenta cool and stiffen so you can cut cakes, but I like it hot and creamy, especially for this dish. (If you really want firm polenta, cook it longer.)
Top with a dollop of good, thick meat sauce, like this one (or a poached egg!). Enjoy!