Creamy Parmesan Polenta with Mushrooms and Leeks


SourceAnna Mays
Prep time30 minutes
Cooking time1 hour
Total time1 hour, 30 minutes


This recipe was entered in our We ♥ Local Cornmeal recipe contest by Anna Mays.  Anna says,"Comforting, creamy Parmesan polenta is a dressed up in this recipe with sauteed wild mushrooms and porcini, simmered in a rich butter, soy and mushroom stock sauce. The umami flavor of the sauce brings out the sweetness of the corn. For polenta to lose its hard, gritty texture and turn creamy, enough water must penetrate the corn’s cell walls that the starch granules within swell and burst (or “gelatinize”). Similar to the preparation of dried beans, baking soda is added to the cooking liquid to reduce the time it takes for gelatinization to occur, thus shortening cooking time and making the polenta more creamy. Enjoy with a generous mound of mushrooms and sauce; a fun twist on a classic winter comfort food."


2 cups
milk, whole (plus 2 Tbsp, divided)
1 teaspoon
salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon
baking soda
2 cups
cornmeal (coarse)
12 tablespoons
butter, unsalted (divided)
1 1/2 cup
cheese, parmesan (grated)
1 ounce
mushrooms, porcini (dried)
2 cloves
garlic (peeled and minced)
leek (large, thinly sliced)
2 teaspoons
thyme, fresh (leaves)
1 pound
mushrooms, cremini (wild or cultivated, sliced thin)
2 tablespoons
soy sauce (or liquid aminos)
2 tablespoons
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon
black pepper, ground



Bring 4 1/2 cups water and 2 cups of milk to a high simmer in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add salt and baking soda. Pour the cornmeal slowly into the liquid, stirring with a wooden spoon or wire whisk to prevent clumping. Continue stirring as the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn heat to low. Cook for approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes. The polenta should do little more than release wisps of steam. If it bubbles or sputters even slightly after the first 5 minutes, the heat is too high. If the polenta becomes quite thick, thin it with 1/2 cup water, stir well and continue cooking. Add up to 1 cup more water as necessary, to keep the polenta soft enough to stir.

Remove from heat. Add 4 Tbsp butter and stir well. Add the Parmesan. Taste for seasoning and adjust seasoning as needed.

For the topping:

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with about 1 cup boiling water. Allow to steep for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, pat dry, then chop roughly. Reserve the mushroom stock.

Melt 4 Tbsp of the butter in a sauté pan set over high heat. Add the garlic and cook until it starts to sizzle, about 30 seconds. Do not let the garlic brown.

Add leeks and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring in with garlic.

Add the cremini and porcini mushrooms and thyme to the pan, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, stirring until browned. Add about 3/4 cup of the mushroom stock to deglaze the surface, using a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits. Allow the stock to reduce by half, then turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 4 Tbsp of butter, whisking to combine, followed by the liquid aminos/soy sauce, 2 Tbsp of milk, and olive oil. Allow mixture to cook until it thickens a little, then remove from heat. Taste for seasoning, adding black pepper, if desired.

Warm the polenta if necessary and ladle the polenta in a warmed bowl, then top with mushrooms and the sauce. Serve immediately.