Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta

Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta is autumn on a plate. This famous North Italian speciality is so warm and comforting, and so easy to make. I like to use a mixture of mushrooms for texture and flavour.

It is mushroom season here in Italy and the hills are full of keen funghi hunters seeking out this seasonal treasure.

In Emilia-Romagna, we often serve Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta. The mushrooms are simmered into a simple ragu and served over polenta with a few herbs and a touch of garlic to bring out the flavours. This is a brilliant vegetable focussed recipe, and cooks much faster than a traditional meat ragu.

A bowl of mushroom ragu with Creamy Polenta.

Mushroom hunting in Italy

Whether golden chanterelles, sponge-like morels or the most highly prized of all, the ‘king of the forest’ porcini, everything is fair game. That is, of course, if you have a hunting licence!

Yes, you even need a permit for picking mushrooms in this part of the world, probably a wise idea as there are such a bewildering array of edible and non-edible mushrooms to be found in the woods!

I have to admit, I tend to leave the foraging of wild mushrooms to the experts like my father-in-law, however, I can think of a million ways to cook with them. Creamy Mushroom Pork Medallions, Feta Stuffed Mushrooms or finely diced in a Classic Pork Wellington are some of my favourites.

Which mushrooms are best for ragu?

If they are in season, and your budget can stretch to it, porcini mushrooms are the obvious choice for this dish, though you can use whatever mushrooms that you have. Using a mixture of mushrooms, like in the picture below, gives a really pleasing variation of textures and shapes in the finished dish.

Varied mushrooms on a white cloth.

How to cook polenta

A lot of people are unsure about cooking polenta, but it couldn’t be simpler. It fact, if you’ve ever made porridge from oats, or cornmeal (which polenta is), you can definitely whip up a pot of polenta.

To ensure your polenta is perfectly smooth, start by stirring the polenta into cold liquid. This stops the mixture from forming any lumps and bumps.

Stirring often while cooking will stop the polenta from sticking, and mixing in butter and Parmesan cheese right at the end of the cooking time enriches the dish and gives it a beautifully creamy consistency.

Is polenta gluten-free?

Technically, yes. As with most modern products, polenta may be produced in a factory that makes other products, so companies may not guarantee the polenta is free from gluten.


I don’t drink alcohol, can I make this mushroom ragu without the wine?

Absolutely. If you can get hold of some dried mushrooms, soak them in 200ml of warm water for 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan with the fresh mushrooms, and use the soaking liquid instead of the wine. This is a great way to get an intensely mushroomy flavour.

Can I make this recipe in advance?

I prefer to make cook this dish fresh, as polenta sets when it cools. You can definitely make it in advance, however, simply reheat the mushroom ragu in a small saucepan, and loosen the polenta with a little milk or stock and whisk well while reheating.

Where can I find polenta, and what sort should I buy?

Polenta is actually coarse cornmeal, and you will often find it under that name. Avoid ‘Instant’ polenta, I find it can have a bit of a gummy and unpleasant consistency.

Can I make this recipe vegetarian?

Yes! Leave out the meat. You’ll want to adjust the seasoning to balance out the missing saltiness. A little miso or nutritional yeast would work here.

Mushroom ragu in a skillet.
Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta in a bowl with Parmesan cheese and glasses of white wine.

Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta Recipe

Mushrooms with creamy polenta

Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta

Jay Wadams
Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta is autumn on a plate. This famous North Italian speciality is so warm and comforting, and so easy to make. I like to use a mixture of mushrooms for texture and flavour.
4.91 from 11 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Serves 4


for the creamy polenta:

  • 200 g polenta / coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 750 ml cold water
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g Parmesan cheese, grated

for the mushrooms:

  • 25 g butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 slices pancetta or prosciutto, optional
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 500 g mixed mushrooms, e.g: chestnut, oyster, chanterelles, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
  • 200 ml white wine
  • 125 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • sea salt & black pepper

to serve:

  • extra grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley


    Whisk the polenta, water and milk together in a large saucepan. Crumble over the stock cube and stir through. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often. When the polenta has begun to thicken and bubble, turn the heat right down to the lowest setting and cook, stirring often for 15-20 minutes. If the polenta is too thick, whisk through a little water or milk. Directly before serving, stir through the butter and Parmesan until melted.
  • SAUTÉ ONIONS: Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms by heating the butter and oil together in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Cook the onions gently for 5 minutes until beginning to soften, but not brown. Add the pancetta or prosciutto (if using) and cook a further 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  • ADD MUSHROOMS: Turn the heat up and add the mushrooms to the pan along with rosemary and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until the mushrooms have begun to reduce.
  • ADD LIQUIDS AND SIMMER: Whisk together the wine, vegetable stock, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste and cornstarch, then Pour into the pan. Stir well, then bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
  • SERVE:
    Divide the polenta between 4 shallow bowls or deep plates and top with the mushrooms. Serve with extra parmesan on the side and scattered with fresh parsley.


Imperial and cup measurements are approximate. For best and most accurate results I use a digital kitchen scale like the one below.

Recommended Equipment

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Serving: 1bowl | Calories: 622kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 69mg | Sodium: 760mg | Potassium: 857mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 2224IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 353mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Main Event
Cuisine | Italian
Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 337

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