The tradition of eating Polenta in Italy is older than the introduction of sweetcorn in the 16th century. However, in Lombardy region, precisely in its Alpine region Valtellina and in the surroundings of Bergamo and Brescia, besides the classic polenta made with corn flour, you can also find a coarse, darker polenta due to the use of buckwheat flour – Grano Saraceno in Italian : it’s the Polenta Taragna, suitable for the winter season.
Polenta Taragna is a variant of the classic polenta, and in addition to corn flour it also contains buckwheat flour, which gives it its characteristic dark colour, while butter and Casera or Bitto cheese, typical products of the high mountains that give it the right elasticity, are added once it is cooked.
What does ‘Taragna’ mean?
Taragna owes its name to the “Tarai”, the big wooden stick used to “tar” the polenta (in Valtellina dialect tarare means to stir).
The cultivation of buckwheat began in the area of Verona (Veneto) at the beginning of the 16th century, and in the second half of the same century also in Valtellina. The farmers who lived on the borders of Italy with Germany used buckwheat flour to make polenta.
Little by little, buckwheat became one of the fundamental foods in the diet of the farmers of Valtellina and the Lombard Alps, as first consumed in the form of soups.
Pairings: Polenta Taragna is ideal with porcini or champignon mushrooms or braised game or beef or pork sausages.
One of the most famous pairings with Polenta Taragna is Brasato, braised meat cooked slowly in a little cooking liquid, often wine or broth flavoured with spices. Usually is used beef.