I'm not gonna lie. All you have to do is give me a bowl of plain polenta and I'm a happy camper!
I grew up in a Cuban household and polenta for us was called harina de maiz. A bowl of it like this was plenty to satisfy me... and sometimes my mom would add a fried egg or two... but that's a recipe for another day. Right now it's time to talk mushrooms.
Press pause and enjoy this beautiful scene for a moment. Seriously when you mix up a bunch of mushrooms like these and chop them up, they almost have a meaty flavor.
And back to my Cuban roots, here's a form of sofrito- usually sautéed onions and garlic - with the added twist of carrots and a lot of mushrooms. I pick a variety including oyster, shiitake, cremini, portobello, king trumpet, porcini, chanterelles. Whatever is wild and fresh.
Thicken it up with tomato paste.
Add some canned diced tomatoes.
And top it off with fresh herbs. I always use rosemary, but fresh thyme is good too! If I can find culantro I'll use that. By the way, culantro is not easy to find. Not to be confused with cilantro, it's a staple in Cuban bean dishes. I actually have a culantro plant that loves summers in Chicago but lives indoors during the winter. I can't live without it!
While the mushroom ragu is simmering, begin on the polenta. So easy to make, just follow the package directions but try to find organic, GMO free high quality polenta. It really does taste better!
To top things off and make this the most delicious polenta ever, add freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Although it's filling, this dish will have you coming back for seconds every time!
creamy polenta with wild mushroom ragu
Ragu is typically an Italian meat-based pasta sauce that is not as overwhelmingly tomato-y as a marinara sauce. But substitute this combo of mixed wild mushrooms for the meat and you'll feel as satisfied as if you ate meat sauce. The tomato paste gives it perfect consistency. Ultra flavorful, it's to make and a healthy way to go!
2 pounds mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, oyster, king trumpet (whatever is fresh)
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium carrot
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp high quality salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 small can tomato paste
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 large culantro leaf, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups water
1 cup polenta
1 tsp high quality salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese plus more for topping
2 tbsp unsalted butter
for the ragu
for the polenta
Coursely chop the mushrooms into bite sized pieces. Chop onion and carrot finely. Mince the garlic cloves.
In a large skillet warm up the oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 5 minutes. Add onion, carrot, garlic, pepper and the rest of the salt, stirring until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine.
As the liquid has begun to evaporate, add tomato paste and blend it in. Add the diced tomatoes, bay leaf, culantro, rosemary and red pepper flakes. After it comes to a boil reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer for 30 minutes while you cook the polenta.
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat bring water to boil. Slowly pour in the polenta and salt. Reduce the heat to low and whisk continuously until the polenta is solft and creamy.
Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and butter.
Serve the ragu over the polenta and garnish with more cheese