Polenta and mushrooms is a simple and original recipes from the Italian mountains. The traditional cuisine from Trentino inspires with its versatility. It is inspired by Alpine and Mediterranean influences, as, for centuries, Trento has been a transport crossroads between north and south and was long regarded as a luxury stopover for travellers to Italy.
The art of simple country cooking
Typical local products from the mountains, such as bacon, sausage, game and cheese, meet more southern products, such as olive oil, tomato sauces and citrus fruits. You can eat your fill of ravioli stuffed with mushrooms, strangolapreti (spinach gnocchi, literally translated as priest stranglers) as well as new interpretations of "migrant" dishes, such as canederli (dumplings) and spezzatino (goulash).
A tasty synergy: polenta and mushrooms
Polenta and exquisite mushrooms are among the cornerstones of Trentino cuisine. Long considered a poor man's food, polenta, so popular in northern Italy, has had a social ascent. The nutritious dish made from maize semolina has made its way from the bourgeois kitchen to the gourmet restaurants.
... and the side dishes
In Trentino, polenta is traditionally cooked in copper kettles – in the past on an open fire – while being stirred constantly. It is served with grilled Tosella cheese, grilled meat, spezzatino, rabbit, butter and Parmesan, Gorgonzola, lucanica (grilled fresh sausage), salsicce (fried sausage), formaggio fritto (mountain cheese fried in a pan with milk and butter) or porcini mushrooms and chanterelles.
Mushroom picking is very popular in Trentino, and only fresh, self-gathered wild ones are usually served on Sunday polenta. In the meantime, there are even restrictions on picking them in order to allow mushroom stocks to recover. When I was a child, there was only one rule: get up early, otherwise the forest is emptied!
Polenta and mushrooms
For the polenta
- 1 l water
- 250-300 g Maize semolina, medium (the more maize semolina, the more compact the polenta will be) - cornmeal
- ½ tbsp coarse salt
For the mushrooms
- 700 g mushrooms, cep mushrooms and chanterelles
- 2 garlic cloves, whole
- olive oil , as required
- 1-2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- salt, as required
- pepper , as required
- Bring the water and salt to the boil in a copper kettle. A wide steel pot is also suitable. Add the maize semolina to the boiling water. To avoid lumps, stir the semolina in with a whisk. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat and stir the polenta constantly with a polenta spoon or larger cooking spoon from the bottom to the top. A traditional polenta takes about 45-50 minutes. When the mixture starts to separate from the edge of the pot and forms a crust, the polenta is ready.
- In Trentino, the polenta is often spread on a wooden board; a string is attached to it to cut pieces out. If you like, you can also grill the pieces or fry them in olive oil. Cold polenta is also easy to prepare in this way.
- For those in a hurry, many shops now sell pre-cooked "minute polenta" made from fine semolina that is ready to eat in a few minutes. However, real polenta connoisseurs prefer to use medium-ground maize semolina because of its more intense flavour.