How about a light cold weather meal that still checks the box for hearty comfort food? Meet our creamy, cheesy polenta topped with a vegetarian mushroom ragu that’s so savory, you might even forget it’s meatless.
This tomato-based mushroom ragù is loaded with garlic and fresh herbs and delivers the same heartiness meat-based sauces do. It’s the ultimate cool-weather dinner for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Why we love these ingredients
Mushrooms…and plenty of them! Mushrooms are low in calories but high in antioxidants and immune-boosting compounds. Even better, research shows that mushrooms help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and promote weight loss.
Tomatoes are abundant in lycopene, an antioxidant that naturally gives foods like tomatoes, red peppers and watermelon their red color. Lycopene supports your vision, bones, and heart. It’s potent antioxidant properties protects your DNA from free radical damage.
Garlic is packed with health boosting compounds that can guard against the flu and common cold as well as inflammation. Studies show it may help reduce total and LDL [bad] cholesterol levels.
Some pro tips to get you started
The key to the heartiness of this dish is to tear the mushrooms into bite-size pieces rather than slicing or chopping them. The irregular shapes help soak up the sauce and create a wonderful, meat-like texture.
At the end of the cooking process, stir a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar into your ragu. The sweet-and-tangy flavor of the balsamic give the sauce a depth of flavor that you would you’d expect from a meaty, slow-simmered one.
Leftover mushroom ragù can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Leftover polenta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat with some milk or water to loosen it up.
Now let’s get cooking!
Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragù
A cozy recipe for creamy polenta topped with a savory vegetarian mushroom ragu.
PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 45 minutes
For the ragù:
- 2 pounds mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, baby bella, oyster
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes [more or less to taste]
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
For the polenta:
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 2 tablespoons butter
Make the mushroom ragù:
- Tear 2 pounds mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Peel carrot. Peel, trim and chop onion and carrot. Mince garlic.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
- Add the mushrooms, season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add the onion, carrot, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and the onion and carrot are soft, 3 to 5 minutes more.
- Pour in 1/4 cup dry white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid just starts to evaporate, about 1 minute.
- Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Then add the can of tomatoes [with juices] 1/2 cup water, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to meld, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the polenta.
- When polenta is done, Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme and rosemary sprigs from the ragù. Stir in 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Serve the mushroom ragù over the polenta and garnish with more grated Parmesan.
Make the polenta:
- Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Whisk in 1 cup polenta and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce the heat to low and whisk continuously until slightly thickened and no longer sticking to the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Cover and continue cooking, stirring and scraping the sides of the pan every 10 minutes, until the polenta is soft and creamy, 25 to 30 minutes total. Remove from the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter until fully melted.
- Keep your polenta covered until you’re ready to serve.