Do Italians ever use nixtamalized cornmeal ("grits") for polenta, or would they no longer call that polenta?
This translation dictionary gives some examples of where "hominy" is synonymous with "polenta," but that doesn't seem correct.
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At least in the US, there are two types of grits: (a) dried ground corn, and (b) hominy grits. The latter is nixtamalized.
I can't find any historical references to using nixtamalized corn in Italian cuisine. I would be interested to learn of any uses from any Italians who are on this site.
I did find much more recent evidence of using nixtamalized corn for polenta, here, for example.
Corn, typically in the form of polenta is common, especially in northrn Italian cuisine. Reference to this does appear in relation to the history of nixtamalization. It seems that while corn was brought from "the new world" back to Europe, the nixtamalization process was not. Given the fact that it was inexpensive and plentiful, large quantities of corn (usually in the form of polenta) were consumed as a main dietary staple. This corn was not nixtamalized, and given the lack of other dietary nutrients in 19th century Italy, resulted in a serious skin disease that the Italians named pellagra. This disease is a result of a lack of niacin, which the nixtamalization process allows us to access.
I am italian and it is the first time that I hear about nixtamalized cornmeal (there is not even a real translation to nixtamalize). But I can assure you that you can use different mix of flour to make polenta, after all it's a peasant food and it was done with what was available. more than flour, however, I think it is cooking that make various polenta dishes. For example I really like grilled polenta which can also be made with polenta made from the day before.