Polenta Cakes With Mushroom Ragu

polenta cakes with mushroom ragu

The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Cooling: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 4
Yield: 8 cakes
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
543 Calories
39g Fat
31g Carbs
17g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 543
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 39g 51%
Saturated Fat 17g 87%
Cholesterol 76mg 25%
Sodium 2195mg 95%
Total Carbohydrate 31g 11%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 17g
Vitamin C 11mg 55%
Calcium 358mg 28%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 840mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Polenta cakes with mushroom ragu and whipped herbed ricotta make a perfect fancy appetizer or a filling vegetarian meal. The polenta cakes are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The ragu (like our mushroom Bolognese) is hearty and rich with umami. And the herbed whipped ricotta is the perfect cool and creamy bite to finish off the dish. You can prepare the polenta, ragu, and ricotta ahead of time; then when you're ready, simply fry up the polenta and heat the ragu.


For the Polenta Cakes:

  • 4 cups vegetable broth

  • 1 cup polenta

  • 1/4 cup cream

  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

  • 3 tablespoons butter, salted

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

For the Mushroom Ragu:

  • 1 pound mushrooms, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 shallot, diced

  • 1 medium carrot, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup vegetable broth

  • 1/4 cup white wine

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

For the Herbed Whipped Ricotta:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese

  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Steps to Make It

Prepare the polenta.

  1. Gather your ingredients.

    polenta cake ingredients
  2. Heat the 4 cups of vegetable broth in a saucepan on high heat until boiling. Add the polenta, lower heat to medium, and cook, whisking occasionally until it is tender, about 5 minutes.

    polenta cooking in a pot
  3. Whisk in the cream, parmesan cheese and butter and continue cooking until the butter is melted. Take off the heat and allow to cool for a minute.

    polenta cooking in a pot
  4. Grease a small sheet pan with cooking spray and pour the polenta into the pan. Smooth the polenta with a silicone spatula so it sits evenly in the pan. Allow to cool and then cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

    polenta cooling in a sheet pan
  5. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator and cut into 8 equal-sized squares or rounds. Use a biscuit cutter if cutting into rounds. Lightly dust both sides of each cake with flour.

    polenta cakes cut from a sheet pan
  6. Preheat oven to 200 F. Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat and add half of the olive oil. When the oil is warm, place 3-5 of the polenta cakes in the pan and cook each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add the rest of the oil and repeat with the remaining cakes.

    Place the cooked cakes in the oven to keep them warm while you prepare the ragu. Alternatively, you can prepare the ragu ahead of time and heat it when you are ready to serve.

    polenta cooked in a cast iron skillet

Prepare the ragu.

  1. Gather your ingredients.

    mushroom ragu ingredients
  2. Add the mushrooms, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a cast iron skillet and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.

    mushrooms sauteed in a cast iron skillet
  3. Add the shallots, carrots, garlic, thyme, and ground black pepper to the mushrooms and saute for another 2 minutes.

    sauteed carrots and mushrooms
  4. Add in the tomato paste and stir to combine.

    tomato paste with mushroom and carrots
  5. Add in the vegetable broth, wine, and balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine and simmer on low heat for 8-10 minutes.

    mushroom ragu

Prepare the Herbed Ricotta.

  1. Gather your ingredients.

    herbed ricotta ingredients
  2. Add all of the ingredients to your food processor and blend until smooth and whipped in appearance, about 1 minute.

    whipped ricotta in a food processor
  3. To serve, arrange polenta cakes on each plate. Spoon the ragu over the cakes and top with the herbed ricotta. Sprinkle with more chopped basil if you wish.

    polenta cakes with mushroom ragu