Recipes Side Dishes Rice and Grains Polenta with Mushrooms and Cheese
Polenta with Mushrooms and Cheese

Polenta with Mushrooms and Cheese

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 Serves 4.
Merlot's inherent truffle fragrance and earthiness make it an ideal wine for mushrooms. The polenta adds a note of sweetness, which suggests a fruity wine, and it definitely lends bulk to the dish, so pick a Merlot with body. If you use mostly wild mushrooms, an even heftier red wine is not out of the question. Dependable: Merlot from France, Italy or the United States. Daring: medium-bodied Nebbiolo from Italy.


For the mushroom sauce:

  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
  • About 1/3 cup hot water, if using dried
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. assorted fresh mushrooms, such as
     cremini, portobello, chanterelle, and domestic
     brown or white, in any combination, brushed clean,
     trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage or thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the polenta:

  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


First, make the sauce: If using dried porcini, place in a bowl with the hot water to cover and let soak until softened, about 1 hour. Remove the porcini, squeezing out the excess water, and chop finely. Line a small sieve with cheesecloth, place over a small bowl and pour the liquid through it. Set the mushrooms and liquid aside separately.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same sauté pan over high heat, warm the remaining 2 Tbs. oil with the butter. Add the fresh mushrooms and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Return the onion to the pan and stir in the garlic and sage. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped dried mushrooms and the soaking liquid, if using, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend the flavors. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and keep warm while you cook the polenta.

To make the polenta, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the cornmeal, the 1 tsp. salt and the water. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, and then cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan often, until thick and smooth, about 30 minutes. If the polenta thickens too quickly but still feels undercooked and grainy, stir in a little hot water and keep stirring over medium heat until cooked through and soft. Season with salt and stir in the butter and mascarpone cheese.

To serve, reheat the mushroom sauce. Spoon the polenta onto a warmed serving platter or individual plates. Top with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Food & Wine Pairing, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1999).