Grilled Polenta With Mushroom Ragu

For Lent I’m going to limit buying food other than dairy, fruits and veggies in the hope of using up some of the surplus in our pantry and freezer.

The idea came from a brochure handed out as part of my church’s Ash Wednesday service. It said this, “Frugality goes completely against the grain of our culture that is so obsessed with ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ which today means comfort, indulgence, pampering, pleasure, luxury and leisure. Practicing frugality means that we reject the notion that we need such things to make our lives fulfilled.”

Interesting idea, one I’m willing to try for 40 days (with a small break for the 7 days of spring break).

This recipe gave me a chance to use some items from both my fridge and pantry. It turned out to be easy, tasty and satisfying to both our stomachs and my soul.

Ingredients for 4-6

Grilled Polenta

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons half & half
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta

1. Bring milk, water, half & half, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano then gradually whisk in the polenta.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the polenta thickens, about 5 minutes.

3. Pour the polenta into a greased 9 by 9-inch baking pan, spreading, using a greased spatula, so that it is 1/3-inch thick. Cover and let stand at room temperature until set, about 15 minutes.

4. Once cooled, cut polenta into 4 large squares. Lift one square out at a time and cut into 4 triangles. Melt 1 teaspoon of butter on a non-stick skillet or griddle. Brown both sides of polenta. Remove and repeat until all 16 triangles are grilled.

Mushroom Ragu

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, hydrated in 1/3 hot water then chopped (reserve liquid)
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms (baby bella, oyster, crimini), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon each dried thyme, rosemary, oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup each –  dry Marsala, red wine & liquid from rehydrating porcini
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves


1. Hydrate dried porcini in 1/3 cup very hot water. Drain, squeezing as much liquid out as possible. Save all liquid. Chop porcini and rough chop other cleaned mushrooms.

2. Heat oil in large skillet, add the mushrooms and onion. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices. Sauté until the juices evaporate, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until the mushrooms are browned.

3. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the Marsala, red wine and mushroom liquid. Cover and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half.

4. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of melted butter and stir in 1/2 teaspoon flour to form a paste, then stir the paste into the mushroom mixture. Cover and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle with parsley.

To serve: Place 3-4 triangles of grilled polenta on each plate, top with mushrooms ragu and grated Parmigiano. Serve with a tossed salad and a hearty glass of red wine.

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