Creamy Mascarpone Polenta w/ Mushroom Ragu
Oh, my goodness! It’s actually cold here in Los Angeles. For the first time, I can honestly say that it feels a bit like I’m in Atlanta or dare I say, New Jersey. Interestingly, when I told my mom how cold it was here, she gleefully stated, “Well, it looks like you gave us all of your heat.” Okay, so it’s opposites day! Well, the only way to combat such a cold streak is to make cozy, comfort food.
This Mascarpone Polenta with Mushroom Ragu is rustic, creamy, and classic. A perfect meal to warm you up from the chilly air. This is a quick meal involving cremini mushrooms, mascarpone (oh joy) and cornmeal. Most recipes combine a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms and incorporate a variety of mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini, shitakes. For this recipe, I used one type of mushroom as this is what I hand on hand. Also, depending on where you live, your store may have shitake’s, but not chanterelle’s. If you’re like me and set on having the exact ingredients for a dish, save yourself the frustration and stick to one type of mushroom. If you nail it, and find all the mushrooms, go for it. You’ll be pleased with the result as each mushroom imparts its on flavor and texture. It will be a treat.
Lastly, there is much debate about whether to use polenta or cornmeal to make this dish. Well, polenta is the dish, not the ingredient. So, you can definitely use cornmeal that you see at your local grocery store. However, you can purchase cornmeal that is labeled “polenta,” such as this and this brand if you want to be authentic.
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1-1 ½ pounds crimini mushrooms or a mix of mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shitake)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt. Whisking constantly, add the cornmeal in a very thin, steady stream. Stir until thickened. Remove from the heat. Add the mascarpone, parmesan cheese and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
For the mushroom ragu, heat the oil in a large skillet to medium-low. Add the shallots and cook until wilted. Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, and liquid has evaporated. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute. Add the red wine and stir until the wine evaporates. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and continue to cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
To assemble, put the polenta into individual bowls and generously top with the mushroom ragu. Serve with additional parmesan cheese.