Shishito Pepper Pesto Pizza

I’ve been home for two months, and while I’ve been baking, cooking, and sharing food with my family and friends, I haven’t blogged once. Sure, I had a bake sale, made some diabetes-inducing sticky buns for Father’s Day breakfast, and burned through our stashes of olive oil and butter at an unprecedented rate, but nearly everything I made was an old recipe of mine or from a cookbook—tried and true recipes that I had been waiting for months to make in a kitchen equipped with more than a not-quite-level stove, rickety table, and a medicine cabinet mirror. I made pots of black beans, thai curries, and dozens of cookies, but with all of those recipes already tucked away on this site I saw little point in adding to the redundancy that seems to take over the internet, one food blog at a time.

Last night’s pizza was what finally convinced me to log back on to Word Press. Also, my mom asked if I had let the blog go dormant, and you just can’t ignore a comment like that from the people that  raised you and are sending you to college (hi, Mom and Dad), so I figured a post on this pizza was in order.

Homemade pizza is a staple at our house, and while we normally go the carrot-walnut or margherita route I thought it was time to shake things up a bit with a few handfuls of shishito peppers that were taunting me in the crisper drawer. Shishito peppers, or their Spanish equivalent, padrón peppers, have been cropping up in recipes and restaurants more regularly, especially now that Trader Joe’s carries them and nearly every tapas restaurant serves blistered padróns alongside squares of Tortilla Española. They should come with a warning though: most of them are fairly mild, but every so often you come across a real scorcher. (Engineers out there: the probability of a spicy pepper is about 10%, though that statistic is a rough guideline when you factor in growing conditions and other environmental factors. You may just have to dive into this pizza and hedge your bets.)

Once blistered in a hot pan, shishito peppers are smoky with a lingering grassiness, and when paired with golden brown mushrooms and cherry tomatoes that have been sautéed in a hot pan until split open, you’ll wonder you’ve never piled the three onto a pizza with fresh mozzarella and aged parmesan. A final few dollops of homemade basil pesto when the pizza comes out of the oven ties the whole pie together, and before you know it you’ll be wishing you had made extra.

Shishito Pepper Pesto Pizza

Makes 4 10-inch pizzas, serves 4-6

2 lbs pizza dough

1 lb shishito or padrón peppers

4 teaspoons olive oil

Kosher or sea salt

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

1 lb cherry tomatoes

1lb button mushrooms, sliced

Cornmeal, for the pizza peel

12 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

1/4 cup freshly made pesto

  1. Once your dough has been made, divide it into 8 oz. portions and roll them into even balls. Place on a lightly floured surface, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour, until nearly doubled in size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 500F and place your pizza stone on the top rack of your oven.
  3. While the dough rises prepare all of the toppings:
  4. For the blistered peppers: Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over high high for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and cook, stirring every minute until the peppers are blistered in spots and tender, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a small bowl and let cool slightly, then remove and discard the stems and cut the peppers into 1 inch pieces.
  5. For the tomatoes: Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in a 12-inch skillet. Add the onions and saute for 2-3 minutes, until nearly translucent. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have split and have begun to cook down. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and set aside.
  6. For the mushrooms: Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the same pan that you used to cook the tomatoes (unless you really like doing dishes, in which case go right ahead and get out a fresh pan), then add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Saute until tender and golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
  7. To assemble the pizzas: Roll out the risen dough into a thin, 11-12 inch circle, then transfer to a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal. Top evenly with 1/4 of the tomatoes–this will not be a pizza with a traditional layer of sauce, so don’t worry if the tomatoes haven’t become soft enough to be considered a sauce.
  8. Add 1/4 each of the mushrooms and the peppers in an even layer on the pizza. Spread 3 oz. of the cheese in an even layer on top of the vegetables, then sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of parmesan. Transfer the pizza from the peel to the preheated pizza stone, and bake until golden brown and crisp, 11-14 minutes.
  9. Remove the pizza from the oven, and lightly dollop 1 tablespoon of pesto over the top of the pizza–again this should be more like a Jackson Pollack painting, than a smooth layer of pesto. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of parmesan over the top, then slice into wedges and serve. Repeat with the remaining pizza dough and toppings.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.


Pasta with Fennel Braised in White Wine

This dish is for anyone who has declared an aversion to black licorice or fennel seeds. Despite what you may think, fennel bulbs—unlike fennel seeds or black licorice—are a much milder flavor than the name indicates. I don’t care if you won’t touch black twizzlers (because everyone knows that red is the best flavor), but have you ever tried fennel bulbs braised with onions in white wine, olive oil, and lemon juice until the fennel bulbs are so tender that they yield under the slight pressure of a fork and marry perfectly with al dente pasta? It’s nothing to be afraid of.

You see, once the fennel has the chance to cook down for a little bit, the flavors mellow out and become sweet, but not overly so. By the time the pasta water has come to a boil and the pasta is cooked, the scent of the fennel braising in the pan will become irresistible.

When the pasta and vegetables are both ready, the dish gets finished with a sort of faux-Gremolata. Gremolata is an Italian condiment used to finish a dish consisting of garlic, lemon zest, parsley, and olive oil. To preserve the delicate flavors of this pasta dish, I omitted the garlic and used a mixture of fresh basil (to mimic the anise flavors in the fennel) and parsley for the herbs. A shower of parmesan cheese completes this pasta dish, making for an elegant meal that can still be made on a weeknight—even if you don’t like black licorice.

Pasta with Fennel Braised in White Wine

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 bulbs fennel, cut lengthwise then cut crosswise into ½ inch slices

1 onion, cut in half and sliced with the grain into ¼ inch slices

Sea Salt

Pinch of red pepper flakes

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, chives, or a combination thereof)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 lb. of a short pasta shape, like shells, penne, rigatoni, or fusilli

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the fennel and onion and sear for 2-3 minutes until the fennel and onions are beginning to turn golden brown. Add ½ teaspoon sea salt, the red pepper flakes, and the white wine, then turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook for 20-25 minutes until the fennel is golden brown, very tender, and the wine has reduced. Add the lemon juice and cook for 1 minute, until slightly reduced.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the chopped herbs, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot, then add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and place in a large bowl. Add the fennel, and bowl of herbs, then toss until thoroughly combined. Adjust seasonings to taste, then serve immediately topped, with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!


For a very long time, Risotto seemed to me like a dish meant only for special occasions, mainly because making risotto in the traditional manner requires at least 40 minutes of constant stirring and ladling to carefully and gradually coax out the starches that are held underneath the surface of Arborio rice grains. It’s a labor of love, but the end result of a perfectly creamy and al dente bowl of risotto is worth it.

Or, at least, I thought it was a worthwhile use of my time until I discovered the Cook’s Illustrated technique for risotto with minimal stirring. What they do is add all of the cooking liquid in the beginning of the process and simmer the rice briskly until al dente. The abundance of simmering liquid agitates the grains just enough to slowly release their starches without constant stirring. In much less time than it takes to prepare a bowl of traditional risotto, you can have a bowl of perfectly creamy, hands-free risotto that tastes just as good as a traditional risotto.

However, this is not a recipe for risotto, but farrotto. Farro is an Italian grain similar to wheat and it has an incredibly toothsome texture with just enough chew. I prefer farro to Arborio or Canaroli rice, and it has the added benefit of being a whole grain. Farrotto has a wonderful texture and is cooked in the same manner as risotto: a hot pan with some olive oil, onion, and garlic, a quick toasting of grains, a splash of white wine, and a good amount of hot cooking liquid. The final cooking step, known as the mantecatura (or mixing in of the butter), involves vigorously stirring in a touch of butter and some good parmesan cheese.

The texture off risotto and farrotto is often described as all’onda (wavy) for its loose but not soupy consistency. Farrotto can be enhanced in any number of ways, with a vegetables such as asparagus or mushrooms stirred in, or even some fresh chopped herbs, but I prefer the simplicity of parmesan and butter. A final drizzle of truffle oil or good olive oil is a nice addition, but no matter what it’s a delicious dish that makes any meal taste like a special occasion.


Serves 4-6 as a side dish

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ cups (9 oz.) semi-pearled farro (see note)

½ cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 ½ cups water (see note)

½ cup grated parmesan, plus extra for serving

1 ½ tablespoons butter

Truffle oil or good olive oil to finish, if desired

  1. In a large pot (at least 4 quart capacity), heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot then add the onion and sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the farro and stir thoroughly to coat each grain with the olive oil, 1-2 minutes. Pour in the white wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until the wine is absorbed. Add the sea salt and 4 cups water, bring mixture to a vigorous simmer, then cover and simmer briskly for 25-30 minutes over medium heat, covered, until the farro is almost tender, stirring every 10 minutes.
  2. Stir the farro once it is almost tender, then stir in the final ½ cup water let it sit off heat for 5 minutes before stirring again to redistribute the farrotto. Stir in the parmesan and butter, adjust for seasonings to taste, then portion into individual bowls. Serve immediately with some grated parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil or olive oil, if desired.

Note: There are multiple farro varieties and each will behave a little bit differently in the risotto and will require a different cooking time or liquid content. Here are a few general guidelines:

If using Trader Joe’s Quick-Cooking Farro: 4 1/2 cups water and 25-30 minutes of cooking

If using semi-pearled Farro: 4 1/2-5 1/2 cups water and 30-40 minutes of cooking

If using traditional (un-pearled Farro): 8-9 cups water and 50-60 minutes of cooking

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Spinach Pesto with Rigatoni

Pesto is a great thing to have on hand for quick, yet delicious meals. In the time that it takes to boil a box of pasta, I can quickly puree all of the ingredients together and produce a potent mixture that gives off aromas of pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil when tossed with hot pasta. A good pesto always tastes fresh and vibrant, and this one is no exception. Though this pesto does not use the fresh basil that is traditionally used in Liguria, the baby spinach makes for an excellent substitute in the winter months, when basil is either scarce or not at its best. Spinach, unlike basil, does not oxidize readily, so a batch of this pesto will stay bright green even after being exposed to air.

Pesto is composed of many strong flavors such as pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil, and the key to keeping the flavors in balance is to toast the pine nuts and garlic before pureeing them. This step smooths out any harshness from the raw garlic and releases the oils from the pine nuts to give a necessary depth to the finished pesto. After toasting the pine nuts and garlic, they get pureed with a generous amount of baby spinach, olive oil, and good parmesan cheese until a thick emulsion is created. A touch of pasta water gives some body to the tossed pasta, and a shower of parmesan cheese ties the whole dish together. In addition to being a fast meal to make, this is a meal best devoured in mere minutes until all that is left on the plate are a few flecks of spinach.

I find that short, tubular pasta shapes work best with pesto, as the consistency of the pesto clings nicely to shapes such as rigatoni, penne, orecchiette, and cavatappi, as well as other varieties with ridged exteriors. Try this pesto next time you’re at a loss for what to make for dinner, and add some brightness to your winter evenings.

Additional uses for pesto:

  • Use as a condiment in grilled panini.
  • Swirl a spoonful into a bowl of vegetable soup.
  • Stuff a dollop into some dough and make a few pesto-stuffed flatbreads.
  • Place pesto in a bowl with extra olive oil and use it as a dipping sauce for bread.
  • Puree with white beans, olive oil, and seasonings to make a unique bean dip.
  • Use pesto instead of tomato sauce with pizza and top with goat cheese, mushrooms, and fresh herbs.

Spinach Pesto with Rigatoni

Serves 4

¼ cup raw pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, peel still on the clove

5 oz baby spinach

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for the pasta pot

¼ cup olive oil

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 lb dry rigatoni

  1. Place the pine nuts and garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium heat, and toast until the pine nuts are golden brown and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan, peel the garlic, and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender, combine the pine nuts, peeled garlic, spinach, and salt. Process until thoroughly pureed, about 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to achieve an emulsified pesto. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl (large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta) and stir in the grated parmesan.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then add 1 tablespoon sea salt. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente. Drain the rigatoni, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta with the pesto and ¼ cup of the cooking water, adding more pasta water if necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Serve immediately, with more parmesan cheese grated on top.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Lentil Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

The idea for this rendition of stuffed mushrooms actually came out of a need to create a fresh meal out of Thanksgiving leftovers. I had some lentils with caramelized onions and thyme, and a bowl of Brussels sprouts sautéed with truffle oil and parmesan cheese, but had no interest in serving them a second time in their original state. I wanted a comforting and hearty dinner for a cold night that still managed to be nutritious, so I roasted some portobellos until the excess water in the mushrooms had cooked out and soon I was left with a flavorful vehicle for the lentils and Brussels sprouts that made for an excellent vegetarian entrée. I was so pleased with how the dish turned out that I modified the recipe to make a version that did not require previously prepared ingredients, so that the meal could be enjoyed any night of the week.

This version, with lentils, baby spinach, an inexpensive drizzle of truffle oil (Trader Joe’s has done it again!) and a shower of grated parmesan, gets a finishing touch under the broiler until golden brown and piping hot. It’s a simple yet elegant meal to make that comes together quickly on a weeknight, and is packed with vegetables and tender lentils. These are not the typical stuffed mushrooms that are filled with cheese and breadcrumbs and served for holiday appetizers, but they’re just as delicious in their own way.

The next time you need a break from Christmas cookies and gift wrapping, throw a few portobellos in the oven and get ready to be pleasantly surprised.

Lentil Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Serves 4

4 Portobello mushrooms

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon sea salt, divided

½ onion, finely chopped

1 ½ cups cooked, seasoned lentils (see note)

3 oz. baby spinach, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

½ cup water

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons truffle oil (if you don’t have truffle oil, you can substitute an equal amount of olive oil)

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese.

  1. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven. Then preheat the oven to 500F. While the oven preheats, remove the stems from the mushrooms, then carefully scrape out the gills with a spoon. Using a sharp knife, cut shallow crosshatches ½ inch apart on the back of the mushroom cap, creating a grid of shallow cuts—do not cut through the mushrooms. Rub the mushroom caps with 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Once the oven has preheated, place the mushrooms, stem side down, on the hot baking sheet, then bake for 10 minutes, until the juices have begun to be released. With a metal spatula, carefully flip the mushrooms so that the stem side faces up, then roasted for another 10-12 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated.
  2. While the mushrooms roast, prepare the filling. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and sauté until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Add the remaining ¼ teaspoon sea salt, lentils, spinach, thyme, and water, and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until warmed through and the spinach has wilted. Add the balsamic vinegar and truffle oil, and toss to combine.
  3. Once the mushrooms are finished, remove them from the oven, and divide the lentil filling evenly among the 4 mushrooms. Top each mushroom with 1 tablespoon of the grated parmesan, then carefully return them to the oven for 4-5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is beginning to turn golden brown. Serve immediately.

Note: I use the Trader Joe’s steamed green lentils in this recipe, and they are perfectly cooked and seasoned with salt. If you do not have access to those lentils, combine ¾ cup of green lentils in a saucepan with 2 ¼ cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 24-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain off any excess water before proceeding with the recipe.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

When you have a little extra time on the weekend to spend in the kitchen, lasagna is the ultimate project. Lasagna is one of those dishes that doubles extremely well without doubling the work involved, in one pass on a Sunday afternoon, you can make a delicious dinner and as a bonus, have a pan of lasagna in the freezer, waiting for busy nights to come.

Most lasagnas served in the states feature copious amounts of tomato sauce, meat, and mozzarella. This lasagna, however, lacks all of those components, relying instead on a butternut squash and sage sauce, earthy mushrooms, and three flavorful cheeses (fontina, parmesan, and goat cheese) to make a satisfying meal.

What sets this lasagna apart from other mushroom lasagnas is the triple layer of duxelles amidst the squash and cheese. Mushrooms duxelles is a traditional French preparation where finely chopped mushrooms are sautéed in butter until caramelized. This packs a concentrated mushroom flavor into the lasagna without excess moisture. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, and I love how they permeated the entire dish without any traces of rubbery texture, which can sometimes happen in a dish with a lot of moisture, such as lasagna.

After the lasagna is assembled, it’s baked in two steps: in the first baking period, the lasagna is covered to gently cook the noodles before removing the foil and baking at a higher temperature to brown the top layer of cheese.

Once the lasagna has had ten or so minutes to rest so that it becomes easier to slice and serve, dig into a big piece of butternut squash and mushroom lasagna for a special Sunday dinner.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

Serves 6

Butternut Squash Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into ½ inch pieces

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups water

2 whole sage leaves

2 tablespoons minced sage

Mushroom Duxelles

½ oz. dried shiitake mushrooms

1 cup water

1 pound button mushrooms

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon pepper


4 oz. goat cheese (fresh chevre), crumbled

4 oz. fontina, coarsely grated

1 ½ oz. (3/4 cup) parmesan, finely grated

12 (8 oz.) no boil lasagna noodles

For the butternut squash sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion and sauté until beginning to turn golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and salt and stir to combine. Add the water and whole sage leaves, then increase heat to medium-high, cover, and simmer vigorously until the squash is tender, 20-25 minutes. Once the squash is tender, remove the sage leaves and mash the butternut squash with a potato masher or immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the minced sage and adjust seasonings to taste.

For the mushroom duxelles:

While the squash cooks, combine the dried shiitakes and water in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high power for 3 minutes, until the water boils. Remove from the microwave and set aside for 10 minutes, to allow the mushrooms to rehydrate, then remove the mushrooms from the water and chop finely. Reserve the liquid for future use in soups or stews, if desired. While the mushrooms rehydrate, halve the button mushrooms and place them in a food processor. Pulse the mushrooms until finely chopped, about 12-15, 1 second pulses.

Heat the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and once hot, add the chopped button mushrooms, chopped shiitakes, salt, and pepper and sauté for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms have begun to caramelize. Adjust seasonings to taste and set aside.

To assemble and bake the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 425F, with one rack in the middle of the oven and one rack towards the top. In a medium bowl, combine the fontina and parmesan cheese and toss to mix thoroughly. Pour 1 cup of the butternut squash sauce into the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and evenly distribute the sauce on the base of the pan. Line the bottom of the pan with 3 lasagna noodles. Top each noodle with ¼ cup sauce and spread the sauce so that it thoroughly covers each noodle. Take 1/3 of the mushroom filling and evenly distribute it on top of the noodles and sauce. Top the mushrooms with 1 oz. of the goat cheese, and ¼ of the fontina and parmesan mixture. Top with a layer of 3 noodles and repeat this layer scheme 2 more times. On the last layer, use the remaining 3 noodles, the remainder of the sauce, and the rest of the cheese to top the lasagna.

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake, covered, until bubbling, 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 500F, and move the lasagna to the upper rack and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is beginning to turn golden brown. Remove the lasagna from the oven, and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: This lasagna recipe is very easily doubled. Make 2 lasagnas and freeze one for future meals. Let the lasagna defrost in the refrigerator for 2 days, then bake as directed, adding 10-15 minutes to the covered baking time to ensure that it cooks through.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Polenta and Chanterelle Tart

Among other wildly exciting weekend events, chanterelle mushrooms were on sale for about a third of the usual price at Costco. Obviously that calls for buying an entire pound, because monumental happenings such as the peak of chanterelle season happen only once a year. The beauty of chanterelles is that unlike most mushrooms, they retain moisture in a way so that once roasted, they have a deeply caramelized flavor without a shriveled texture.

Chanterelles pair well with the foods from the mountainous regions of Northern Italy—the climate there is perfect for growing chanterelles, Arborio rice, and polenta, which explains the abundance of chanterelle risottos and polentas on Italian menus in the fall. I decided to roast the chanterelles with shallots and thyme, then use them to top a sort of polenta tart, made from cooked and cooled parmesan polenta.

Now, polenta has a reputation for causing arm fatigue and general irritation after thirty minutes of constant stirring, but a few years ago I found a method for cooking polenta from Cook’s Illustrated that has revolutionized the polenta process. Basic ingredients (ones that have a pH greater than seven) weaken the walls of the corn cells, allowing for more water absorption in a shorter amount of time. Cooking polenta over extremely low heat with a pinch of baking soda (a base) allows polenta to be ready in under half an hour, with almost no stirring.

The polenta is poured into a pie pan and cooled lightly to let it set. While the mushrooms roast, the polenta gets quickly baked to crisp the top, then the mushrooms are spread on the top with some parmesan. After a few more minutes in the oven, the tart is sliced into wedges and served for a hearty and unique fall dinner.

Polenta and Chanterelle Tart

Polenta technique adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 4

Polenta Crust

4 cups water

1 teaspoon table salt

1 cup polenta (medium-grind yellow cornmeal)

1 pinch baking soda

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mushroom Topping

3 medium shallots, thinly sliced

1 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, halved from top to bottom

½ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  1. For the polenta: Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then add the salt. Slowly whisk in the polenta in a continuous stream until fully incorporated. Whisk in the baking soda, turn the heat down to the lowest setting, and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes until the polenta is thick and tender, whisking every 10 minutes. Whisk in the butter and ½ cup of the parmesan until smooth, then pour the polenta into a greased, 9 inch pie pan and smooth into an even layer. Set the polenta aside for 40 minutes to set. At this point, you can refrigerate the polenta for up to one day before continuing with the recipe.
  2. For the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400F and have a rimmed baking sheet handy. Toss the shallots, mushrooms, thyme, salt and 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil together, then spread into an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven.
  3. While the mushrooms roast, place the pie pan of polenta in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the polenta from the oven, then sprinkle the remaining ½ cup parmesan evenly on the top. Once the mushrooms have finished roasting, remove them from their pan and place them in an even layer on top of the polenta. Put the polenta dish back in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until everything is hot and the parmesan cheese has melted. Remove the polenta from the oven, drizzle with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil, and cut into wedges and serve.

Note: If you do not have access to chanterelles, substitute an equal weight of button or cremini mushrooms and roast them for 25-30 minutes.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!