Keep an eye on the grits when you're cooking so nothing sticks to the pan. Extra butter couldn't hurt.
In a medium saucepan, combine 3 cups water, grits, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping down sides of pan with a heatproof rubber spatula, until thick and creamy, about 25 minutes.
Remove from heat, add butter and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; stir until incorporated. Serve with hot sauce on the side, if desired.
Grits, a traditional Southern staple, are ground hominy. Hominy is dried corn from which the hull and germ have been removed.