Fontina Polenta with Sauteed Porcini Mushrooms
It’s the season for Porcini Mushrooms in Italy! Perfect timing to make this delicious recipe for Fontina Polenta with Sauteed Porcini Mushrooms!
We’ve been trying to reduce the amount of meat in our home . . . and it certainly is not easy! To achieve that meaty flavor, but only in vegetables and not beef or pork, porcini mushrooms are the perfect replacement! So I decided to make a rich, cheesy, mushroom-y polenta side dish, Fontina Polenta with Sauteed Porcini Mushrooms.
Although polenta is traditionally Italian ‘cucina povera’ (food of the poor), when you serve it in these little individual gratin dishes, this polenta looks pretty fancy! Your guests will definitely be impressed!
If you like polenta, if you like cheese, and/or if you like mushrooms . . . then you’ll enjoy this humble recipe!
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I just love ‘shrooms . . . they’re such a major ingredient in Italian cuisine!
Oh and a big shout out to my mother who helped me in the kitchen and who helped improve the setting for shooting the photos for this dish! She did a great job didn’t she?
Here are a few photos of some superb mushroom dishes that my parents and I enjoyed in my family’s native village of Montecreto in the Northern Italian mountains:
Ristorante Al Focolare in Montecreto, Italy
First you come upon a menu displayed on the outside of the ristorante
to tease your appetite!
we ordered the antipasti of “Crostini ai Funghi (Mushroom Crostini)” below:
and some perfectly crispy fried mushrooms (below)
My cousin, Enrico is holding a box of freshly harvested porcini mushrooms from the mountain forest!
Then the chef proudly brought a platter of HUGE porcini mushrooms
for us to select from to use in our food order!
You can see how large these porcini are compared to his hand on the left!
and these were just part of the antipasti!
The chef recommended that I order the risotto with porcini mushrooms for my entree (“i primi”):
Really great price at 7 euro (about $9.50 in US Dollars)!
Fontina Polenta with Sautéed Porcini Mushrooms
- 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or butter
- 2 (4-ounce) packages dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted, drained, chopped
- 1 8-oz. pre-sliced baby portobello mushrooms
- 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- ½ tsp. minced fresh oregano
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ cup chicken broth (optional)
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 - 3 cups instant polenta (depending on the consistency you prefer)
- 2 -3 cups shredded fontina cheese, divided
- 2 teaspoon salt
Prepare the mushrooms
- Heat oil/butter in a skillet over high heat.
- Reconstitute the dried mushrooms in hot water, drain and squeeze out excess water.
- Chop mushrooms.
- Add all of the mushrooms to the hot oil/butter and sauté for about 4 minutes.
- Add herbs and garlic; sauté 1 minute.
- Stir in broth (optional), salt, and pepper.
For the polenta
- In another large heavy saucepan, bring milk and 1cup of broth to a boil.
- Stir in polenta; cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Stir in half of cheese and salt.
- Divide polenta among 4 gratin dishes; top with remaining cheese.
- Broil 5 minutes in the oven set on 'broil'.
- Top each serving with sautéed mushrooms.
- I would like to thank my mother, now departed from this earth, for helping me plate and style the photography of these delicious Italian tarts.
If you love mushrooms as much as I do, here are two more recipes that I know your family and you will enjoy:
Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms from Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy
Mushroom Tart with Three Cheeses
What Are Porcini Mushrooms?
Porcini mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms with a thick, white stalk. The cap can range in size from one inch to almost an entire foot, but most are no more than a few inches wide.
Porcini mushrooms are highly prized in Italian cuisine whether fresh or dried!
Because of their status in fine cuisine, their short season (autumn), and how difficult they are to cultivate (in pine tree forests only), porcini mushrooms can be pricey. A pound of fresh porcini costs between $30-$60 depending on the quality, with dried mushrooms priced a little lower. Beloved by gourmet chefs, porcini are carefully hand-picked during October and November.
Enjoy them simply sautéed and eaten as a side dish or add them to risottos and pasta. Dried porcini add rich amazing flavor to broths and stews.
Porcini are sometimes confused with shiitake mushrooms. Both mushrooms are commonly sold dried and rehydrated for use in broths, soups, and sauces. Shiitake mushrooms have a meatier flavor with less earthy mushroom taste and cost less than porcini. They serve as a more economical replacement for dried porcini mushrooms if you prefer a meatier flavor.
What Do Porcini Mushrooms Taste Like?
Porcini have a strong nutty and deep earthy flavor. They have a tender, meaty texture when cooked. Dried porcini add a deep, mushroom flavor to broths and sauces and, once rehydrated, have a slightly chewy texture.
If you’re lucky enough to find fresh porcini mushrooms, make a simple sauté or add them to risotto. Risotto can also be made using dried porcini mushrooms. For an extra mushroom-flavored soup or broth, just replace some of the broth in a recipe with the liquid that remains from soaking the dried mushrooms. Mmmmm!
Where to Buy Porcini Mushrooms
Fresh porcini are a rare treat, appearing for a short month or two in autumn and sometimes again in the late spring. They can sometimes be found sold by the ounce or small container in specialty markets and farmers’ markets while in season. Dried porcini are available year-round at Italian and specialty markets or online.
Porcini mushrooms should be firm with unblemished white stalks and brown caps, not nicked or broken. If the undersides of the caps have a yellowish-brown tinge to them, the mushrooms are heading into over-ripeness, and if they have black spots on them or the under caps are deep green, they’re already overripe.
When purchasing dried porcini, avoid any packages with lots of small crumbs. These mushrooms are likely old and lacking in flavor. Also, they should have a heady mushroom aroma.
How to Cook & Store Porcini Mushrooms
- Porcini should not be soaked in water or even rinsed if possible. Use a dry or slightly damp paper towel to wipe any dirt off of each mushroom just before using. Excess water will cause the delicate mushrooms to deteriorate before cooking.
- To prepare dried porcini, steep them in just enough warm water to cover for 20 to 30 minutes or until they’ve softened and expanded. Drain them and reserve the liquid for use as broth in a soup or risotto.
- Porcini are a seasonal treat and can be sautéed, braised, fried, grilled, or stewed. They tend to be prepared simply (such as sautéed) to maintain their flavor and texture. They are commonly served as a side dish or added to risotto or pasta. The broth produced by soaking dried porcini adds a depth of flavor to soups and recipes that use stock, and the rehydrated mushrooms can be chopped and added to dishes.
- Store fresh, unwashed porcini in a loose paper bag in the crisper of the fridge. They’ll keep for a few days, however, you but don’t wait to cook these precious fungi. They’re best used right away. When storing dried porcini, keep them in ab airtight container in a dark, cool (but not cold) place for up to six months.
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Polenta, cheese and mushrooms…..you call this a humble creation? It looks heavenly, Roz.
Thanks Angie, but truly humble, polenta is. Thanks for your continual friendship!
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Will your mom come to my house and help ME with food styling? She did a great job!
You’re so sweet Dorothy….I’ll be sure and tell my mother that she’s received your kudos!
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I have Polenta just sitting in my pantry begging to be made, but I’m scared, I’ve never made it before! NOW I have to try it!! Oh and your Mom did do a fabulous job because your pictures look amazing!
Tammi, it’s so interesting that you should say that about polenta. I was just talking to a journalist about how many Italian recipes ‘sound’ so scary, but in truth, are just so darn simple. Take the plunge my friend! And thanks for the compliment about my madre, she’ll be so thrilled to hear your compliment!
I’m going to do it! I’m just mastering the art of thickening sauces so maybe I’m ready LOL! Well I’d give anything to have photo’s like that so well deserved Madre!
Thank you Tammi !!!!
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I keep buying polenta and i have not ever cooked with it! I need to make your dish! Just beautiful!
Hi Jennifer! I totally understand, polenta is just as easy as making mashed potatoes, jump in and enjoy! I love your stuffed peppers that you made for this week’s theme!
Your photos are always so nice Roz. And I hear you about cutting back on meat. It’s hard for this meat and potato family to do. Nice dish.
Hi Lea Ann, It’s a little bit more difficult with a guy that has to have meat. I usually make meatballs on the side for him so that he’s happy-happy!
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Polenta and mushrooms are two of my favorite things. This looks like comfort food to me!
Brianne, Comfort food indeed!
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I’m so, so glad you’re becoming a Sunday Super regular, Roz! Your polenta dish sounds incredible! I may have to make a mushroom free version for Bill, but I’d happily eat these just as you made them 🙂 DELISH!
Liz, it’s such a fun group! And I love how it allows me to prepare a recipe at my leisure on Saturdays when I’m not in the office! Hope Bill is recovering nicely!
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I’ve never made polenta, and I’m always kind of iffy about it when other people make it. But with fontina?!?! AND mushrooms?!?!? This sounds SO good!! I’ve got to try it
You’re so sweet Shaina! As with everything, I always tell peeps to make things the way that will make them HAPPY! I appreciate your comment!
I love the addition of fontina cheese — makes me want some right now!
Fontina is one of my fave cheeses too Jennifer. Asiago is the other fave!
Ohhhhhhhhhhh Roz… seeing those beautiful Italian dishes almost made me cry! Especially those mushrooms! I don’t get to see anything like that around here!
I LOVE your recipe today… polenta and mushroom is such a classic (and delicious) combination and fontina is one of my favourite cheeses! Thanks!!!
Oh Manu, It brings tears to my eyes too that I have brought back happy memories to you! I am a big lover of mushrooms too!
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Wow, Roz! I adore polenta, and adding fontina takes this to a whole new level. We’re trying to reduce the amount of red meat that we eat and this would be a gorgeous meal to enjoy. Your mama did a great job with the set up!
Debby, there’s nothing like Fontina. It’s absolutely my ‘can’t live without cheese!” Thank you for the compliments that I’ve passed on to my mama. She’s pretty shy about all this blog stuff!
This looks so good, Roz I need a piece right now!
You’re just so sweet Cindy! I appreciate all of your visits and kind comments! Roz
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I’m in mushroom heaven!!! I’m making this dish! Not only could I eat polenta every day, but I also love cheese and mushrooms, so this dish is for me. I’m drooling over your pictures. Thanks for sharing!!!
Hi MJ! Sorry for responding so late to your comment! I’m so busy at work and just trying to catch up! MJ, if you make these please let me know what you think! Thanks!
This looks spectacular! Who would have thought polenta could look so good?
Thank you Sarah, and yes, polenta always looks great. . . just like cheesy grits in the South! YUM!
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I grew up eating poor mans food and still enjoy it so I know I would love this dish. Looks like you were in mushroom heaven.
Larry, I could eat ‘shrooms on a daily basis! Thanks for your comment!
Roz, we love mushrooms! What a wonderful recipe! Especially we have been looking for some other meatless meals to make in the next coming weeks. We have to tell you that polenta is not a staple dish in Naples, Italy, and our mother has never made polenta. Can you believe that? Nevertheless, we learned to love polenta after so many travels to Italy. So funny, we have been to Harry’s Bar in Venice, and had the same risotto. LOVED it! Your photos of the polenta are stunning! Great post Roz!
Were you just in Italy for the Spring break? xxoo Anna and Liz
Anna and Liz,
I’m like both of you; I just adore mushrooms! Any way and any time! I was pretty sure that polenta was a Northern Italian staple . . . so many wonderful different specialities among the various regions of Italy make it just the best international cuisine!
I have a weakness for polenta, especially if it’s smothered with cheese and mushrooms like this one. Your photos were always beautiful, and now you’ve gotten the “mother’s special touch” to make the styling stand out even more.
Even though it is warming up with summer temps, I’m dreaming of polenta after some of your blog’s most recent posts! Hope you’re enjoying your time in Italy; I’m loving all of the photos!
oh my this looks fantastic! I do not make polenta often enough. I’m adding it to my shopping list so I can make it soon.
Thanks Renee; let me know what you do with your polenta when you prepare it! so good!
oh my goodness!!! This looks so good!!! you know, I have never made polenta at home. . this needs to change ASAP!! can’t wait to try this!
I have never made so many recipes and various foods at home myself, Alice and always seem to find tremendous and endless inspiration from my fellow foodie blogger friends such as you!
Hi Roz, I have never eaten or made polenta before. This dish looks so delicious! I think I am going to have to put that recipe on my list of recipes to make. I love trying new things! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with us. I love your mother’s styling, too. So nice to have help with that!
Polenta is a classic in my family Shari, but best served when you want something hearty and bone-sticking, such as when it is cold! I’ll be stopping by your blog here in a minute to say hi!
oh roz! My oh my I wish I was at your house for dinner every sunday night! It looks incredible. So rich with the best textures of the polenta and mushrooms together. Nothing is better than a sauteed mushroom. Any leftovers for my house? LOL!
Ah thanks Jessica; I’ve been away on vacation and will be over to visit your blog in a snap!
I’d swap the porcinis for hedgehogs or chanterelles (I hate porcini) but BOY does that look delicious
for me it’s porcini; but everyone has their own preferences that I respect.
How could anyone not want to dive right into a bowl of this? Lovely!!
Thank you so much for your kind compliment Bobbi!
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I love your idea of the individual polenta and mushroom dishes…perfect when serving company.
Thanks for your visit and sweet comment Karen!
So my last attempt at a polenta was a big failure but this dish looks so good I think I might give it a try again.
Like myself, I have tried and tried and tried again to do anything in the kitchen. But once you make a polenta or two, you’ve got it down. Never give up, my friend!
I’ve just been getting into polenta and I love it. Adding mushrooms sounds sooooo good. Wish I had this for lunch.
Thanks Courtney, but believe it or not polenta is a nice base for so many things. Cheese makes it so much better! A must in my humble opinion!
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this looks absolutely mouth watering. I am going to make this for Thanksgiving! Have a blessed holiday season my friend xo hugs
These would make very special side dishes for your Thanksgiving spread of delicious food that’s for sure!
Thanks for your compliment,
I love mushrooms of all kinds and a mix if wild mushrooms is always nice. along with mushrooms, I love polenta so this dish is heavenly! We’re trying to reduce our meat consumption as well so thanks for another great idea Roz!
Thanks for the kind compliment M.J.; The same is true of you: I get so much inspiration from you and your delicious recipes!