Peppery Polenta with Wild Mushrooms

This rich-tasting, cheesy, yet low-fat dish can be made with regular as well as coarse cornmeal; just don't use fine cornmeal, or the polenta will be gluey. Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes



  • 3 large red bell peppers

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

  • 1 small onion, minced

  • 3 large tomatoes—peeled, seeded and finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, halved, cored and sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick

  • 1 1/2 pounds assorted fresh wild mushrooms, such as cremini, chanterelles and shiitakes, stems discarded from the shiitakes

  • About 7 cups vegetable stock or canned broth

  • 1 1/2 cups coarse cornmeal (see Note)

  • 1/2 cup 2% milk

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions


  1. Roast the peppers directly over a gas flame or under the broiler as close to the heat as possible, turning often, until charred all over. Transfer to a paper bag and let steam for 10 minutes. Peel off the blackened skins and discard the cores, ribs and seeds. Finely chop the peppers.

  2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a nonreactive saucepan. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted peppers, tomatoes, garlic, honey, basil and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender or food processor.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400°. Arrange the fennel slices in a small baking dish, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.

  4. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the wild mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add a little vegetable stock if the mushrooms seem dry.

  5. In a heavy medium saucepan, bring 6 1/2 cups of the vegetable stock to a boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 25 minutes, depending on the coarseness of the cornmeal. Stir in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until the cornmeal is creamy, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese and season well with pepper.

  6. Rewarm the red pepper sauce, fennel and mushrooms. Divide the polenta among 4 plates. Spoon a little red pepper sauce around the polenta and arrange the fennel and wild mushrooms on top. Garnish with the scallions and serve the remaining sauce alongside.

Make Ahead

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Thin with a little vegetable stock before rewarming.


Coarse cornmeal is available at specialty food stores.

One Serving Calories 457 kcal, Protein 15 gm, Carbohydrate 81 gm, Cholesterol 8 mg, Total Fat 9.6 gm, Saturated Fat 1.3 gm

Suggested Pairing

The deeper flavors of the polenta with wild mushrooms call for a medium-bodied red, such as an Italian Chianti Classico.

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