Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragù

updated Jan 6, 2020
Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragù

A cozy recipe for creamy polenta topped with a savory vegetarian mushroom ragu.


Prep10 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 45 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Come January, most of us are ready for lighter meals. But it’s cold outside, so we’re still craving comfort food. Here’s the perfect compromise: creamy, cheesy polenta topped with a tomatoey herb- and garlic-loaded mushroom ragù that’s so savory, you might even forget it’s meatless. It’s the ultimate January dinner for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

2 Tricks to Building a Mushroom Ragù That Rivals a Meaty One

The best vegetarian ragùs deliver the same savory heft that meat-based ones do, and there are two smart ways to accomplish this. First, instead of slicing, quartering, or chopping the mushrooms, simply tear them into bite-sized pieces. The irregular shapes do a better job of soaking up the sauce, and create a ragù with satisfying texture. Second, stir a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar into the ragù at the very end of cooking. The vinegar’s concentrated sweet and savory flavor, as well as its mellow tang, round out the ragù and give it the same depth of flavor you’d expect from a meaty, slow-simmered one.

Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragù

A cozy recipe for creamy polenta topped with a savory vegetarian mushroom ragu.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the ragù:

  • 2 pounds

    mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, and oyster

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 1

    medium carrot

  • 3 cloves


  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    dry white wine

  • 2 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup


  • 1

    bay leaf

  • 2 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 1 sprig

    fresh rosemary

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon

    balsamic vinegar

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups


  • 1 cup

    polenta or yellow cornmeal

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup

    grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter


Make the ragù:

  1. Tear 2 pounds mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Finely chop 1 medium yellow onion and 1 medium carrot (no need to peel). Mince 3 garlic cloves.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, season with 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and the onion and carrot are soft, 3 to 5 minutes more.

  3. Pour in 1/4 cup dry white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid just starts to evaporate, about 1 minute.

  4. Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add 1 can tomatoes and their juices, 1/2 cup water, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to meld, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the polenta.

Make the polenta:

  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

  2. Whisk in 1 cup polenta and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce the heat to low and whisk continuously until slightly thickened and no longer sticking to the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Cover and continue cooking, stirring and scraping the sides of the pan every 10 minutes, until the polenta is soft and creamy, 25 to 30 minutes total. Remove from the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter until fully melted.

  4. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme and rosemary sprigs from the ragù. Stir in 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Serve the mushroom ragù over the polenta and garnish with more grated Parmesan.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover mushroom ragù can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Leftover polenta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat with some milk or water to loosen it up.