Mushrooms, sausage ragu with polenta, doesn’t sound like perfect comfort fall food?
Of course, there are so many versions of ragu, but most have some meat as a base.
This is the version that I created, reminiscing about my grandmother’s cooking.
She loved to make polenta and lived in Piemonte, a northern region of Italy, and she made it often. Years ago, the commodity of having instant polenta was not available to her.
Thus, she would spend 45 minutes stirring this massive pot of boiling steaming polenta.
It sure was a chore of love, but the result was a tender, full-of-flavor polenta that she served with this to-die-for ragu with fresh porcini mushrooms she collected in the woods.
I have incredible memories of picking mushrooms with my grandmother and her cousin. The fresh morning forest smell has stayed with me all my life.
Fast forward to today, the convenience of instant polenta is available, and in less than 10 minutes, it is ready.
The fresh porcini mushrooms are replaced with dry soaked in hot water to rehydrate.
Do reserve the soaking water if your ragu gets too dry. It will add a perfect layer of savory flavor to your ragu.
I decided to use a mix of dry and fresh mushrooms for this recipe. And only sausage meat. Great combination. But as I mentioned early on, any meat will do.
In this Article
- What is polenta? And How to make polenta?
- Equipment you will need
- Cooking tips and step by step to make this fabulous mushroom sausage ragu with polenta
- Can you make these mushrooms and sausage ragu with polenta ahead of time?
- Storage and Reheating your polenta
- If you enjoy this delicious polenta recipe, look at some of my other recipes:
- Mushrooms, Sausage Ragu with Polenta
What is polenta? And How to make polenta?
Polenta is a dish made of boiled cornmeal that has been mushed.
The polenta can be made with any cornmeal, ground coarse, medium, or fine.
This dish originated in Italy. It can be served hot or cold. Baked, grilled, or sauteed.
Basic polenta is relatively healthy since the other main ingredient is water. Sometimes milk and chicken broth replace the water, making it richer and a bit saltier if stock is used.
Polenta is a very temperamental dish to prepare even though it takes no ingredients per se, and all the work resides in the cooking process.
I suggest you dedicate your full attention to it as you can quickly burn yourself due to splatter. Therefore, here are a few suggestions or tips to prepare polenta stress-free.
Using a polenta pot designated to cook polenta is a real treat. Any cooking pot with a heavy bottom is also perfect.
Equipment you will need
Cooking tips and step by step to make this fabulous mushroom sausage ragu with polenta
As you can see, this dish has two components: the ragu and the polenta. Both are super easy to make. The polenta will need more of your attention.
Let me start with the polenta:
- Once the water is boiling, pour the dry polenta slowly into the boiling water as you vigorously whisk with the other hand.
- Or better yet, have someone help you if you feel uncomfortable doing so. Why, you may ask? You do not want lumps in your polenta which are very easy to form.
- Switch from a whisk to a spatula and continue stirring vigorously, paying attention to the splatter. Polenta is an excellent splatterer.
- Lower the heat to simmer to maintain the cooking process while continuing to stir.
- Never take your eyes off the polenta, and never stop stirring. The success of this dish is in the constant stirring, which allows you to cook it easier, faster, and lumps-free.
- Once thickened, taste to season.
- In a large enamel cast iron Dutch oven pot, start browning the garlic and dispose of it when it is golden. You want the essence of the garlic, not the overpowering pungent flavor, with this dish.
- Sausage meat is the best. Remove any sausage casing for this dish.
- When cooking the sausage, ensure that all the liquid has evaporated before adding the remainder of the ingredients.
- Pancetta adds that beautiful deep flavor to this dish.
- The mushroom variety is up to you want you want to use. You can add fresh slices and dice in small pieces. Or use dry mushrooms that you have soaked in warm water to rehydrate.
- The wine will enhance your dish. Do use a full-bodied, rich red wine. My favorite Italian red wine is Borbera or Pinot Noir. Do not worry about the alcohol content, as it will evaporate.
- I use Pomi chopped tomatoes. They cook faster and are excellent.
- Stir the sauce occasionally and cook with a gentle simmer.
Serve on large serving bowls. Place the polenta first and add a generous scoop of ragu over it. Shave lots of cheese over it.
Can you make these mushrooms and sausage ragu with polenta ahead of time?
Yes, you can, but only the mushrooms and sausage ragu. The longer the flavors sit together, the more intensified.
Please bring it back to room temperature before warming up. Do, however, save the mushroom water, and it can be added if the ragu becomes too dry.
For this dish, I would not recommend making the polenta earlier, but the day of. It has to be soft when you first enjoy it with this dish.
Storage and Reheating your polenta
Store your remaining polenta in a glass container. Make sure that it is completely cool off.
I recommend placing a small piece of plastic wrap over it so that if any condensation happens in your refrigerator, you will not have a small layer of water over your polenta.
The polenta will harden when cold.
Warm up leftover polenta sliced in a skillet. You can serve it with the remaining ragu or melted butter with loads of parmesan cheese or pecorino.
I am doing it in my grandmother’s way: with warm milk.
If you enjoy this delicious polenta recipe, look at some of my other recipes:
Equipment and ingredients used to make this polenta recipe
Mushrooms, Sausage Ragu with Polenta
- 10 ounces sausage meat
- ⅓ cup pancetta, chopped
- 5 ounces Shimeji mushrooms
- 1 ounce dry porcini, soaked in 2 cups of hot water for 20 minutes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup red wine, + more if needed it
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and hard end removed
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup mushrooms soaking water
- salt and pepper
- parmesan cheese
- 2 quarts water
- 2 cups instant polenta
TO PREPARE THE MUSHROOMS RAGU
- In a heavy large enamel cast iron pot heat the olive oil the garlic over medium heat. Once the garlic is brown, but not burned, remove and discard.
- Add the onions, parsley, and carrots, and mix well. When the onions are translucent, add the sausage meat and pancetta, and separate them well with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
- Cook the meats until all the liquid is evaporated.
- Add the bay leaves, red wine, chopped porcini mushrooms, Chinese mushrooms half of the strained mushrooms liquid. Mix well.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Mix well, lower the heat to simmer, cover, and cook stirring occasionally for 1 hour to 1 ½ hours.
- Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking. Add more wine if too dry. Cook uncovered for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves before serving.
TO MAKE POLENTA
- Bring the water to a boil. Gradually add the polenta and whisk vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Change to a wooden spoon and continue to stir until it becomes thicker, around 6 minutes.
- Remove the polenta from the heat and place on a plate or platter. Add the mushrooms ragu over it. Sprinkle a very generous amount of parmesan cheese over it.Serve hot and immediately.
Giangi’s Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.
Did you make this?
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Originally published on October 6, 2020. Updated on November 9, 2022