I spent last Christmas in and around Lombardy. And while it’s not a region as famed for its food as other parts of Italy, it’s certainly no culinary slouch. After all, it’s the home of taleggio! But what you should truly be on the lookout for is the mushrooms, picked in the mountains and paired with a plate of creamy polenta enriched with salted butter, bay and nutmeg.
Specifically, the inspiration for this recipe comes from a miniature restaurant on one of the backstreets of the old town of Bergamo (La Città Alta). It was totally unassuming, run by this old guy and his family. The food was out of this world. If you ever go, head to Trattoria Tre Torri – you’ll not regret the decision.
The type of mushrooms you use here is entirely up to you. If you want to get as close to the real thing as possible, try and find some wild mushrooms. But, assuming you’re not picking your own, this could either be difficult, expensive, or both. Just try to choose something with a bit of flavour – this isn’t a recipe for your everyday white mushroom.
Butter isn’t to be skimped on either. And make sure it’s salted. Your ambition should be to get that polenta as creamy and indulgent as possible. Having said that, take care not to overwhelm your mushrooms and cavolo nero with butter – I hope this recipe toes that line.
Enjoy your taste of Bergamo! And for a little more Italian inspiration, try my recipes for Kale and White Bean Minestrone, Tusucan Ribollita and these rather tempting Florentines. Who doesn’t like a Florentine?
Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms
for the polenta
- 150ml whole milk
- 500ml water
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- a generous pinch of salt
- 150g polenta
- half a nutmeg, grated
- 50g butter
for the mushrooms
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 300g mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
- A splash of red wine
- Two handfuls of cavolo nero, roughly sliced
- A pinch of salt
- A twist of black pepper
- Parmesan to serve
- Begin by slowly warming your milk, water and bay leaves with a genenrous pinch of salt.
- Tip the polenta into the milk and whisk for a minute or so. Turn the heat down and cook for 25-30 minutes, lid on, stirring every now and then.
- Meanwhile, warm a glug of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and start the cook the mushrooms.
- After a few minutes the mushrooms will have started to break down. At this point add a hearty splash of red wine and the garlic.
- Leave the wine and garlic to cook out for a couple of minutes, before adding the cavolo nero (any kale is fine). Pop the lid on and leave to cook slowly.
- Once the polenta is ready remove the lid and add the butter, stirring until it is melted. Then add the nutmeg. You can adjust the thickness with a little hot water if necesssary – it should be creamy, not runny.
- Season your mushrooms and serve on a bed of the polenta, and top with a few shavings of parmesan cheese.
Cost: This really depends on your mushrooms selection. Polenta isn’t hugely expensive, and neither is kale. Unless you’re taking a flight to Milan, hopping on the train to Bergamo and hand-picking your own mushrooms, then £3 should cover this wonderful Italian meal for two.