Mush to Love: Polenta

More of us are eating at home trying to stretch food budgets to the limits. One of my favorite penny-pinching dinners is a big bowl of polenta.

A true comfort food that not only warms the soul, polenta is simple to make, and easy on the pocketbook, to boot!

Polenta, which means ‘mush’ in Italian, is a remarkably versatile and delicious meal that will surely become a new staple in your home.

My recipe is for the soft porridge-like polenta that is just fabulous with a little more cheese and a side salad, or use the following mushroom recipe to add a little pizazz to your dinner.

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Basic Soft Polenta

2 cups water
1 quart milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups yellow cornmeal coarse ground
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Bring the water, milk, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan and reduce the heat to medium, bringing the liquid to a simmer.

Pour the cornmeal in a thin, slow stream into the liquid, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Keep the mixture at a simmer and continue to stir. Cook the polenta – keep on stirring, build those arm muscles – for about 10 minutes.

Polenta is done when it begins to come away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from heat. Whisk in the butter, Parmesan and pepper.

Serve on a large platter or in individual bowls, top with mushrooms and Gorgonzola.

For the mushrooms

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms. Use a variety, such as fresh porcini, white, and portabella. Cut into ½ -inch slices
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

In a skillet heat butter over medium heat, add mushrooms with salt to taste, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, continue to stir, about 1 minute. Add water and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Remove lid and simmer mixture for about 3 more minutes, or until liquid reduces slightly.

Stir 1/2 cup Gorgonzola into warm polenta until smooth.

Spoon mushroom mixture on top of polenta. Sprinkle the remaining Gorgonzola on top with parsley.


Andrea Charroin was a trained baker and pastry chef in San Francisco before she and her family moved to Redding nine years ago. After falling in love with Redding’s downtown, Andrea and husband Westley opened a little pastry shop, Rene-Joule Patisserie, across from the Cascade Theatre. For the three years Rene-Joule was in business, it was renowned for making everything from scratch, using the best ingredients and keeping with a seasonal menu. To this day, Andrea is asked about her Marathon Bars, Orange Twists and sourdough bread.

Copyright 2008 Andrea R. Charroin. Visit my blog at

Andrea Charroin
Andrea Charroin is a trained baker and pastry chef. She worked in San Francisco before she, her husband, Westley, and their two sons moved to Redding. They fell in love with Redding’s downtown and opened a little pastry shop, Rene-Joule Patisserie.
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4 Responses

  1. Avatar adrienne jacoby says:


    The best polenta I EVER ate was in a little family pizza parlor (pretty similar to our pizza parlors, complete with a couple of youth soccer teams celebrating) in Sestralevanti on the north coast of Italy. Place didn't look but boy, was the polenta perfect!!

    Yours sounds like something I'll most certainly try!!

  2. drooling….I haven't had polenta since I left Italy, 30+ years ago. My dad used to make what he called corn meal mush when we were kids so I think it's about time I carried on the tradition. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Avatar Ron C says:

    My mom used a recipe from the back of a plastic bag from 60 years ago. I'm think of framing that piece of family history. Meanwhile using Google I found the same recipe. It is titled Enrico's. It should be titled "My Mom's" This is an easy recipe. I sit at the table an beg as my wife whips it up. Mom grew up in northern Italy and as a kid was served so much so often that it took a long while for her to come back to its unique flavor.

    Enrico's Easy Polenta


    1 cup polenta

    3 1/4 cups lukewarm water

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon butter

    1 -2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional) or 2 minced garlic cloves (optional) (We don't do the optionals)


    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

    2. Place ingredients in buttered 8-inch square pan.

    3. Stir with fork until blended.

    4. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes.

    5. Run fork through it and bake 10 more minutes.

    6. Serve with butter and Parmesan cheese, or with your favorite tomato, meal or vegetable sauce.

    When served drop a dollop of butter on top to make certain your cholesterol is right where it should be. Protect you plate with both hands as table mates attempt to move in for more. As you speak wave your arms in grand Italian movements. Say words that sound Italian like, "my cousin Vito is on work release and looking for contract work, or with force, "mangia!" All that adds to the flavor of life and polenta. We get our polenta at Raley's in their bulk food section. It's cheap. I've causally tried to figure out what exactly polenta is and have concluded it is just coarsely ground corn that was not of high enough quality to be used to make ethanol. Aren't we lucky.

  4. Avatar KarenC says:

    I only hope the corn meal is not made from GMO corn! How are we to know?