Soft Polenta with Mushroom Ragu

Prep Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 20 mins

Adding cheese to polenta makes the texture even creamier. We used Fontina, which is a mild, nutty cheese that melts easily; Monterey Jack would also be good.


Mushroom Ragu:

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed under cold water

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 ½ pounds small white button mushrooms, halved

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme

  • ½ cup dry sherry or red wine

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Soft Polenta:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

  • 4 ¼ cup cold water

  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt

  • teaspoon ground pepper

  • 1 cup grated Fontina cheese

  • 2 tablespoons butter


  1. Place dried mushrooms in a medium bowl; add 4 cups warm water. Let soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve lined with a paper towel or coffee filter, reserving liquid. Squeeze mushrooms to remove excess liquid; roughly chop.

  2. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add fresh mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cover; cook until mushrooms release their juices, about 10 minutes. (If mushrooms begin to brown, add up to 1/4 cup water.)

  3. Uncover; raise heat to high. Cook, stirring often, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add dried mushrooms, thyme, sherry, and tomato paste; cook until pan is dry, about 2 minutes. Stir in reserved liquid. Simmer, partially covered, until sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Serve over soft polenta (see below).

  4. To make soft polenta: In a small bowl, whisk together the yellow cornmeal with 1 cup cold water. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 3 1/4 cups water, coarse salt, and ground pepper to a fill rapid boil. Gradually stir in cornmeal mixture. Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in grated Fontina cheese and butter until melted.

Cook's Notes

Mixing the cornmeal with cold water before stirring it into the water in the pan prevents lumps from forming.

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