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Polenta with Mushroom Ragu

Polenta with Mushroom Ragu
Kevin Weeks for NPR /

I've served this as both a side dish and a meatless main dish. I pour the polenta into 1-cup buttered ramekins and allow it to set while I make the ragu. Then I tip the rounds of polenta onto plates and ladle the mushrooms onto the rounds. Alternatively, you can pour the polenta into a buttered baking dish and top it with the ragu. This is handy if you want to make the dish in advance and then cover it with foil and reheat it in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings


3 cups water

1 cup cornmeal (slightly coarse, about the texture of fine sand)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano (or other hard, dry cheese), grated

Square of brown paper bag

Set a back burner to low.

Bring water to a boil in a covered saucepan over high heat on a front burner. Add salt and pepper. Pour cornmeal slowly but steadily into boiling water, whisking constantly — you don't want the water to stop boiling.

Once all the cornmeal has been added, place a square of brown paper bag over the top, set the lid on snugly, transfer to the burner set to low, and cook for 30 minutes. The brown paper helps seal the lid. Remove from heat, stir in cheese until melted, and pour into ramekins or baking dish and smooth with a spoon.


1 pound mushrooms (any kind or an assortment), sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large shallot, sliced into very thin half rounds

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup red wine, whatever your preference is

Add mushrooms to a large, nonstick skillet and sprinkle with salt. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to brown and give up their liquid.

Add pepper, shallot, thyme and butter, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 2 to 3 minutes, until shallots are soft and translucent. Add wine and reduce by half. Spoon over polenta and serve.

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