A rich and savory mushroom stew served over creamy polenta for a stunning vegetarian main dish. This Mushroom Ragout Over Creamy Polenta is a great hearty dinner with deep, earthy flavor that will impress guests and family alike.
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Don’t worry if this all sounds too fancy; it’s simply mushroom stew served over cooked cornmeal. Ragout is a French word for stew, and the basic method of preparation involves slow cooking meats or vegetables over a low heat. Easy peasy.
Ragout, not to be confused with Ragù, which is an Italian pasta sauce that’s made with meat and vegetables.
Polenta is simply coarse ground cornmeal that’s cooked in liquid until it becomes creamy and delicious. I cook my polenta in vegetable broth so that it’s vegetarian. Of course, if you eat meat, you can cook the polenta in chicken broth if you prefer. It can also be cooked in water but will have less flavor, and milk will make a creamier polenta.
I feel like this dish was super popular, maybe back in the 90’s.
They served it at fancy restaurants; it was in all the magazines; everyone had their own version. Does that make this a retro or vintage recipe?
Want more vintage recipes?
Changes to the recipe
Want to mix it up a little?
You can make the mushroom ragout and serve it as a gravy over steak, chicken, pasta, or rice as well. It would be a great fancy holiday gravy!
Stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan to the Polenta after cooking
Add ¼ cup heavy cream to the mushroom ragout for a creamy stew
Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the mushroom ragout
Want it to be gluten free? You may omit the flour. However, the sauce will not be as thick.
You may use any kind of mushrooms for this mushroom ragout. I went with simple dried porcinis and brown button mushrooms, as they are readily available and not as expensive.
I do recommend that the dried mushrooms be porcinis, as they have great texture and flavor.
And, the fresh mushrooms, again, can be any kind. Go wild with wild mushrooms if you like. I know I love those!
I love that this can be made ahead as well. Which makes it a great option for serving at a dinner party or holiday event.
The ragout will continue to deepen in flavor as it’s stored, and it can be made up to 3 or 4 days before you wish to serve it. Keep in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat, just reheat it gently on the stove.
The polenta can also be made ahead. Under cook it a bit, so cook the polenta just about 40 minutes. Let it cool, and place it in the fridge. When you’re ready to reheat it, cook it on the stove or pop it in the microwave, and if necessary, add a little broth or water to loosen it again.
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Mushroom Ragout Over Creamy Polenta
- ¾ cup coarse or medium ground cornmeal
- 4.5 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ ounce dried mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 pound white or cremini mushrooms cleaned, trimmed, and quartered or sliced 1/2 inch thick
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup dry white wine, red wine, or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
- In a large pot, mix cornmeal and broth. Stir over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to maintain a faint simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until polenta is thick and creamy, about 50-60 minutes. At the end of cooking stir in the tablespoon of butter.
- While the polenta cooks, make the ragout.
- Place the dried mushrooms in a small heat-proof mixing bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, and pour 2 cups of boiling water over the top. Let soak 30 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients. Place a strainer over a bowl, line it with cheesecloth or paper towels, and drain the mushrooms. Save the mushroom soaking liquid. Squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer to collect all the liquid, and rinse them until they are free of sand. Chop coarsely.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet or a wide saucepan, and caramelize ½ of the fresh mushrooms to build a fond on the pan, about 5 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown.
- Add the shallots, and cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the remaining fresh mushrooms, rosemary, and thyme, and turn up the heat slightly. Cook until the mushrooms begin to sweat, add a pinch of salt, and stir for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat as the mushrooms continue to soften.
- Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring, until you can no longer see the flour, about 2 minutes.
- Add the reconstituted chopped dried mushrooms and the wine and turn the heat to high. Cook, stirring, until the liquid boils down and glazes the mushrooms, about 5 minutes. Stir in the dried mushroom soaking liquid, bring to a simmer, and cook turn the heat down to medium, stirring often, until the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and fragrant and the surrounding broth is thick, about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, stir in some freshly ground pepper and garnish with chopped parsley, taste and adjust salt.
- Pour the polenta onto a platter or into serving dishes. Pour mushroom ragout on polenta. Garnish with more fresh herbs if desired.