Pic of Mushroom ragu with fried polenta and parsley pesto

Mushroom ragu with fried polenta and parsley pesto

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Vegetarian mains

Mushroom ragu with fried polenta and parsley pesto

Main Serves 2 45 min
You could serve the polenta warm and porridge-like with this dish but by setting and frying it you get a deeper, charred flavour and a crisp texture. If you have a griddle pan use this instead of frying the polenta to get some attractive and flavoursome grill lines. Don't put any oil in the pan as it will smoke horribly, just rub a little on the polenta itself. Griddle for 2 mins on each side.

Cook's notes

We are using dried mushrooms to make a dark, bosky stock. Dried mushrooms tend to hold a little grit, you'll see it sink to the bottom of the bowl. Pour the stock out gently and leave the very last ½ cm or so to trap the grit.


  • 100g instant polenta
  • 50g Italian style cheese
  • 25g butter
  • 10g dried mushrooms
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 400g Portobello mushrooms
  • 75ml white wine
  • 30g parsley
  • 30g pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Image of Mushroom ragu with fried polenta and parsley pesto


Prep time: 5 min
Cooking time: 40 min
  • Step 1

    Boil a kettle. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 100ml of boiled water over them. Leave them to steep. Put the polenta in a pan with 500ml water. Bring to the boil, stirring well all the time.
  • Step 2

    Once it starts to bubble, stir for about 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens and comes away from the sides of the pan. Mix in the butter, two thirds of the Italian cheese and season well with salt and pepper. Empty the warm polenta onto a chopping board lined with baking parchment or cling film.
  • Step 3

    Spread the polenta evenly until about 1½cm thick. Pop in the fridge to cool. Peel and finely slice the onion. Peel and finely chop or crush the garlic cloves. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the sauce pan. Add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes until starting to soften.
  • Step 4

    While the onion cooks, halve and finely slice the fresh mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the onion, season with salt and pepper and turn up the heat. Cook for 5 minutes until starting to darken. Add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute.
  • Step 5

    Tip in the wine, let it bubble and reduce by half. Lift the dried mushrooms from the bowl, squeezing out any excess liquid. Discard the dried mushrooms. Tip the liquid into the pan of mushrooms, being cautious of any grit (see cook's note).
  • Step 6

    Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the whole lot is dark and thickened. Taste and season if you think it needs more salt or pepper. While the mushrooms cook, wash the parsley and shake it dry. Remove the leaves and finely chop them.
  • Step 7

    Put the frying pan onto a medium heat and toast the pine nuts until lightly coloured. Keep them moving in the pan and be careful not to burn them. Roughly chop the pine nuts with the chopped parsley. Mix with enough olive oil to make a pesto-like paste.
  • Step 8

    Season with salt and pepper. Alternatively, muddle and mix everything together in a pestle and mortar if you have one. Remove the polenta from the fridge, it should be set solid. Slice it into 6 generous wedges.
  • Step 9

    Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the polenta on a medium-high heat until golden brown on each side. If you have a griddle pan, all the better (see cook's note). Divide the polenta between 2 plates and serve the mushroom ragu on top.
  • Step 10

    Spoon over some parsley pesto and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.

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