Taking time to cook the polenta until it’s creamy and tender is well worth it. You’re rewarded with a simple, flavorful “crust” for rich mushroom and tomato sauce filling.
- 6 to 7 C vegetable stock or water
- 2 1/2 t sea salt, divided
- 2 C dry polenta (I used this, from Whole Foods)
- 3 T olive oil, divided
- 2 C finely chopped yellow onion (1 large)
- 2 small bay leaves
- 1/2 t dried thyme
- 1 t dried marjoram
- 1 lb. mushrooms (I used cremini)
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 C dry white wine (I used chardonnay; red will also work)
- 2 C crushed or pureed tomatoes (I use these, from Whole Foods)
- Ground black pepper
- 1 C (or more) grated Monterey jack cheese
- 1/4 C finely grated parmesan cheese
- In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups water or stock to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt, then whisk in dry polenta. Reduce heat to a slow simmer, and stir almost constantly for 10 minutes. Cook another 45 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent polenta from sticking to the pan surfaces. If polenta becomes extremely sticky and stiff, add a little more boiling water (I kept some hot in a tea kettle).
- Lightly oil (with about 1/2 tablespoon) a 9 by 11 inch (or thereabouts; I used two pans adding up to approximately that size), 2 inch deep baking dish or pan. Line a quarter size sheet pan (or larger) with parchment. When polenta is done, scoop half onto the sheet pan and half into the baking dish. It should be pliable but stiff, holding its shape as you scoop it into the pans. Dampen a rubber spatula and use it to press polenta into an even layer. Press the sheet pan batch into the shape of the baking dish.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
- While polenta cooks, prepare other ingredients and “pie” filling. Heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet. Add onion, bay leaf, and dried herbs and cook over medium heat until onion is browned at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Raise heat to medium high and add mushrooms, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until mushrooms are almost tender and starting to brown, 5 minutes or so. Add wine and simmer until completely reduced, then add tomatoes. Simmer about 5 minutes, until thickened, then season to taste with pepper and more salt.
- Spread half of the mushroom filling evenly over polenta in the baking dish. Top with half the Monterey jack and parmesan cheeses, then gently lift the polenta from the sheet pan and place it over the filling (if it doesn’t fit perfectly, the dish will still turn out!). Cover with the rest of the mushroom filling and cheeses.
- Bake until bubbly and cheese is golden brown on top, about 25 minutes.
To make the dish vegetarian, confirm that the cheeses don’t contain animal rennet. The dish is also gluten free. To make a tasty vegan pie, omit the cheese.
Making the polenta is the most time-consuming part of the recipe, but it can be prepared and shaped ahead of time. Cover it with plastic wrap, refrigerating it in the baking pan and sheet pan you used to form it.
- Prep Time: 40 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour 20 mins
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Comfort Food