Polenta refers both to an Italian form of coarsely ground cornmeal, and to cooked dishes made from the cornmeal. Basic polenta involves gradually mixing the cornmeal with boiling water, or sometimes with boiling milk or stock. The cook stirs near-continuously as the meal absorbs the liquid and thickens; it will become quite stiff, after 10-20 minutes.
Some cooks use a double boiler to heat gently; some who are less concerned with tradition will use a nonstick pot.
Some recipes call for mixing cheese, mushrooms, or other flavorings into the cooking meal. In any event, the cooked meal may be plated directly as a starch base. More often, it is poured into a flat pan, where it cools and hardens. The firm cool polenta can then be fried or broiled, and then sauced. Covering the polenta, perhaps with other ingredients, with cheese that is then toasted also is quite tasty.