Polenta is the Italian name for boiled cornmeal. When boiled with water, milk, or stock, the cornmeal becomes soft and takes on a porridge-like consistency. It can be made in sweet or savory preparations. For a sweet version, mix a spoonful of brown sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup into the polenta. Want to try something a bit richer? Add a handful of Parmesan cheese or a dash of fresh herbs to the cooked cornmeal, as we did here.
Cheesy polenta serves as the base to this wild mushroom Bolognese sauce. The wild mushrooms produce anti-cancer and immune-boosting benefits, while potentially aiding in weight loss. They also possess a meaty texture that pairs well with the carrots, celery, and onions in the sauce. Because most of the vegetables are pulsed in a food processor, grinding them into small pieces, this is a great – and tricky way – to incorporate extra healthful ingredients into a meal, especially for the non-veggie-lovers in the crowd!
Polenta with Wild Mushroom Bolognese (Serves 4)
For the polenta:
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
For the wild mushroom Bolognese:
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 6-ounces assorted wild mushrooms (if you can’t find wild mushrooms, you can substitute for a mix of Cremini and White Button varieties.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
- To make the polenta (you can do this before you make the Bolognese, or while the Bolognese is simmering.): Bring the stock to a boil.
- Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, removing any lumps as you go.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow the cornmeal to cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, until thickened. It should have a similar consistency to porridge.
- Remove the polenta from the heat, and stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
- To make the Bolognese: Place the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped – but not pureed. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat, in a large pot. Add the chopped vegetables to the pot. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, just until tender.
- Add the spices and mushrooms to the pan. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until all of the water has evaporated from the mushrooms.
- Pour in the red wine, scraping up any brown bits that have accumulated at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the tomatoes to the mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
- Serve the sauce atop the polenta.
What’s your favorite healthy wintertime comfort food?