Polenta With Garlic and Mushrooms

This polenta with garlic and mushrooms is so rich and satisfying, thanks to plenty of cream, cheese, and buttery sautéed mushrooms, that you won’t even miss the meat.

A white bowl filled with polenta with garlic and mushrooms and sage garnish.

Soupy, starchy, comforting. Food to soothe and strengthen.–Nigel Slater

Polenta With Garlic and Mushrooms

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 3
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Ingredients

  • For the polenta
  • For the mushrooms

Directions

Make the polenta

In a deep-sided, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, bring the stock to a boil. Rain in the polenta, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring, making sure to get deep into the corners of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring almost constantly until very thick, about 40 minutes. If the polenta begins to sputter or stick to the pan, reduce the heat to low.

Make the mushrooms

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil, and then add the 6 tablespoons of butter.

When the oil starts to fizz, add half of the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until soft and honey-colored, about 8 to 10 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, turn them once.

Once cooked, using kitchen tongs, move them to a dish and repeat with the remaining mushrooms. Don’t wash the skillet just yet.

Finish the polenta

Stir in the 6 tablespoons of melted butter, the cream, and the Parmesan into the polenta, and then pour in enough boiling water to give a soft texture that will fall easily from the spoon.

Tester tip: If the polenta needs to be rewarmed, do so over a very gentle heat.

Set the skillet used for the mushrooms over medium-low heat, and toss in the garlic, letting it brown lightly in the leftover butter, about 1 minute.

Return the mushrooms to the skillet, add the chopped parsley and sage, if using, and cook just until everything is heated through.

Spoon the polenta into a serving dish, top with the mushrooms and garlic, and serve.

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Recipe Testers' Tips

This recipe for polenta, garlic, and mushrooms is decadent comfort food at its best. It's SO rich and lovely, and the mushrooms give a nice textural contrast, plus buttery, delicious flavor. We decided that while we couldn't eat this rich recipe every day, it would be perfect for special occasions and the occasional day when we just need its comforting deliciousness.

The polenta had a lot of time to cool down while the mushrooms cooked—the boiled water helped a bit, but I needed to very gently heat them in order to make them hot again and next time, I think that I'd add melted butter and warm cream. In the future, I would also consider cutting some of the larger slices of portobello in half to make it a bit easier to eat, but otherwise, this recipe was delicious as written.

Also, while stirring the polenta for 40 minutes sounds like a long time, I made it fun with an audiobook and a glass of wine, making the time go by very quickly.

I had two initial thoughts when I started this recipe—the mushrooms are going to be so greasy, and no way I'm making this again if I have to stir it constantly for 40 minutes. I was wrong about both of these. I will only be using this method to make polenta from now on; it was airy, buttery, cheesy, luxurious.

The mushrooms did cook in a ton of oil and butter; I might suggest pulling back on that. There was actually so much left after cooking the garlic that I spooned it into a cast iron to cook a dry aged steak to serve with the polenta. The mushrooms weren't greasy, though. I've always been taught to not feed your mushrooms too much oil while cooking because they'll soak it up like a sponge, but these mushrooms turned out so incredibly meaty.

I'm already planning on making this again for my vegetarian friends, it's going to make a fantastic party dish!

I can't improve on the author’s own words describing this dish as “comforting food to soothe and strengthen.” To that I can only add that it is absolutely rich, decadent, and delicious.

A few notes: I used Better than Bouillon vegetable base for the stock, mixing it up a little on the weak side in order not to over salt the dish. I also reduced the butter by 2T for cooking the mushrooms and again for finishing the polenta. Even with those changes, there was no shortage of full fat buttery flavor.

The mushrooms were done in 2 batches in order to give them plenty of room in the skillet. Next time, I would wash and prepare the ingredients ahead of time in order to be close to the polenta for the required frequent stirring. The recipe calls for “stirring almost constantly.” Between stirs, I rushed to measure and prepare the ingredients in short bursts.

My polenta thickened pretty quickly, requiring the heat to be turned down little by little as it cooked. I used a large flexible silicone spatula for stirring, which allowed me to easily scrape the corners of the pan. At about 20 minutes, the polenta was looking thick. I turned it down several times during cooking in order for it not to stick and burn at the bottom. At 30 minutes, it appeared done, but I turned it down a bit further in order to keep going. At about 35 minutes it tasted tender and done so I proceeded with the recipe. Use the clock as a guide. Timing will depend on how fast the polenta is boiling. It was done in 35 minutes, at which time I added the butter, cream, and cheese. It was quite loose and soft, and didn't require any additional water. The optional sage added a nice extra depth of flavor.

This recipe is easy enough but requires your attention as it cooks. With that in mind, I suggest pairing it with a more hands-off dish. This would easily serve 6 as a side dish. It is very rich and a small amount goes a long way. I took advantage of the wonderfully tasty oil and butter left in the skillet to quickly sauté a bunch of baby greens to go alongside.

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