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 bakerslove.typepad.com

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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