File this polenta with mushrooms recipe under “weeknight elegant.” This dish is incredibly flavorful thanks to the cheesy polenta and herby browned mushrooms, but it doesn’t take much time or forethought to prepare. It’s warm and comforting without being heavy or overpowering. You can serve this on its own as a light meal, or alongside my no frills salad with white wine vinaigrette or spinach salad with lemon dressing and parmesan. This dish is also great with a fried egg on top. Whatever you decide to pair it with, I hope you love this polenta with mushrooms as much as I do.
How to get perfectly browned mushrooms
This polenta with mushrooms recipe uses only a handful of ingredients, which means that each one needs to shine. The mushrooms should be perfectly brown and glossy, dotted with flavorful bits of fresh herbs. Here are my tips for cooking the perfect mushrooms, which you may recognize from my herby browned mushrooms with sage and thyme recipe.
- Use both butter and olive oil. It’s rare that I call for butter in a recipe, but I’ve found that just a small amount helps the mushrooms brown and stay glossy. Ina Garten often recommends using both for vegetables, and whatever the Barefoot Contessa says goes.
- Get your pan and butter/olive oil combination HOT before you add the mushrooms. The butter should be a little frothy before you add your mushrooms, which should sizzle when they hit the pan. I recommend using a cast iron skillet for these browned mushrooms — it makes all the difference!
- Speaking of pans, use a large one! The more space your mushrooms have to make contact with the pan, the better they’ll brown. If you don’t have a pan large enough to allow most of the mushrooms to come into contact with the bottom at once, you can sauté in batches: add a handful at a time and push each browned batch to the side before adding more and repeating.
- Resist the urge to over-stir. Give the mushrooms a good toss when you first add them to the pan to make sure they’re fully coated, and then let them sit until they release most of their water and begin to brown.
- Finally, I recommend salting AFTER the mushrooms have browned. Salt encourages the mushrooms to release more water, and if you salt at the beginning you may end up with a soupy mess of mushrooms that take longer to take on color.
A note on polenta
Polenta is a soft and creamy northern Italian dish made from coarsely ground corn. If you’ve never had it before, it’s easy to whip up and extremely versatile. If you have some extra time to spare, you can make it from scratch by gradually whisking yellow cornmeal into boiling water. Because I wanted to keep this recipe weeknight-friendly and am an admittedly lazy cook, this recipe calls for instant polenta; the cornmeal has simply been processed a bit beforehand to cut back on cooking time. The end goal is to have a soft and pillowy bed of polenta for your mushrooms to sit on — however you get there, I promise it will be delicious.
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Polenta with Mushrooms
This polenta with mushrooms is simple, flavorful, and comforting. It’s easy enough to make on a weeknight and luxurious enough to make for date night.
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 20 min
- Total Time: 30 min
- Yield: 2–3 servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
For the polenta
- 1/2 cup instant polenta
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, usually found near deli section (sub Asiago or crumbled goat)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/4 tsp salt
For the mushrooms
- 3 tbs good olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 lb sliced mushrooms, such as crimini or a mix of wild
- 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnishing
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Once water has boiled, gradually whisk in instant polenta and stir for about 3 minutes, until polenta comes away from the sides of the pot. Mix in salt, pepper, cheese, and butter and allow to stand for about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan or well-seasoned cast iron skillet.
- Once butter begins to foam slightly, add mushrooms. Toss once to ensure all mushrooms are coated in olive oil and butter.
- Allow mushrooms to brown, disturbing them as little as possible until most of the water they have released has evaporated and they begin to take on color, about 15 minutes. For best results, most of your mushrooms should come into contact with the bottom of the pan at once.
- Season generously with salt and pepper and mix in your sage and thyme. Allow the herbs a minute or two to wilt and turn off the heat.
- Divide polenta and mushrooms among two bowls, garnish with more thyme, and serve immediately.
- If your polenta stiffens up while the mushrooms finish browning, add a little bit of water or milk and stir to loosen.