Polenta used to scare me. It always seemed time consuming and subject to error. But it’s really quite easy. It’s not a dish you walk away from, but you don’t have to babysit it either. it only requires about 30 minutes of time to have this amazing bowl of creamy, comforting food. This particular recipe is magic with the addition of mushrooms, herbs and roasted asparagus. Make it for a main course or a standout side.

Makes 4 servings

  • 4-1/2 C water
  • 4 T unsalted butter, plus more for asparagus and mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 C polenta
  • 1/2 C pecorino or parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 T fresh organic thyme, leaves rough chopped, plus more for mushrooms
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley, optional for garnish
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 lbs cremini mushrooms, sliced thick (or button mushrooms or a combination of your favorites such as oyster, crimini, and shiitake)
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, rough chopped
  • 1/2 C white wine, divided
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 sprigs organic thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 for asparagus.

Bring water and salt to a boil. While whisking, slowly pour in polenta. Continue whisking for a minute to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes, frequently stirring every few minutes. When the polenta is cooked and tender, add in butter, pecorino and thyme. Stir, test for seasoning and add more salt if so desire.

For the asparagus roast, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Break off the woody ends of the asparagus by gently bending the spears. They’ll naturally break off near the base. Discard ends. Place the asparagus on the sheet pan.  Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil – enough to lightly coat the asparagus. Season with salt and toss. Arrange the spears in a single layer on the pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or just until the base of the asparagus is easily pierced by a fork. Remove from oven, squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and set aside until mushrooms and polenta are cooked.

While polenta is cooking and asparagus is roasting, you can saute’ your mushrooms. In a large saute pan on medium heat, add mushroom – no oil or butter at this stage. You want to saute for a few minutes to release the moisture in mushrooms. After a few minutes, you’ll see that moisture has been released and you can add butter, 1/4 cup of the wine and garlic. Simmer for a few minutes, add salt and saute for several more minutes until you see mushrooms caramelizing and getting crisp around the edge. Add in remaining 1/4 cup of wine and saute until liquid has cooked out. Remove from heat and toss with more fresh thyme or parsley if so desired. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.

To serve, spoon equal amounts of warm polenta into pasta bowls. If so desired, add more herbs, more cheese and cracked black pepper. Top with mushrooms, thyme sprigs and asparagus and garnish with lemon slice or wedge.