Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made with ground corn. This simple, comforting dinner comes together in little more than 20 minutes—perfect on a busy weeknight. You can customize it to suit your needs and tastes: make it plant-based or gluten-free if desired.
Nutritionally, compared to corn, you’d get a bit more fiber with brown rice, or more protein with quinoa……but it wouldn’t be the same satisfying, creamy base for the savory sauteéd vegetables. Spinach packs a nutritional punch with vitamin C as well as other phytonutrients that scavenge “free radicals,” compounds that damage your DNA. Mushrooms provide a hearty umami flavor foundation for the topping and are a surprisingly good source of plant-based protein. Garlic and onion, as Allium vegetables, contain organosulfur compounds whose potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and cardiovascular health benefits are under study.
Think moderation and variety: tomorrow, you might choose the brown rice, and tonight, enjoy your polenta, piled high with veggies. Mangia!
Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms and Spinach
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 2 cups polenta (see recipe notes*)
- 1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk*
- 2 1/2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
- 4-6 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes or parmesan cheese (optional; can use vegan cheese if preferred)
Mushroom Spinach Topping:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
- 2 onions, sliced
- 14oz mushrooms, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-4 Tbsp soy sauce (use tamari for gluten-free option)
- 4 cups spinach, roughly chopped
- Black pepper to taste
- 4-6 Tbsp pine nuts
- Bring coconut milk and vegetable broth to a boil in a pot. Whisk in polenta.
- Reduce heat to a low simmer and continue to whisk for 1-2 minutes to avoid lumps.
- Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes (or according to package instructions*), stirring occasionally. If the polenta thickens too much you can add additional milk and/or water and stir to thin.
- Once the polenta is creamy and smooth, remove from heat. Add nutritional yeast or parmesan and stir (optional).
Mushroom Spinach Topping:
- Heat oil in a skillet. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté 3 minutes on high heat or until beginning to get golden-brown.
- Add minced garlic and roast for 30 seconds longer. Add soy sauce and spinach; cook 1-2 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Season with pepper to taste. Add a splash of fresh lime juice, if desired.
- Toast pine nuts in a small pan without oil until lightly browned.
- Serve polenta with mushrooms, spinach and pine nuts.
Finely ground polenta takes only 2 minutes to cook and results in a more creamy texture. If using regular yellow corn grits, follow the cooking time stated on the package. You can also use cornmeal.
Instead of coconut milk, you can substitute another plant-based milk. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil if using low-fat milk.
Adapted from Bianca Zapatka