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Making Polenta Crostini con Funghi!

A few months back I did a cooking demo for the Westchester PlantPure meetup, led by the enthusiastic, indefatigable Jeanne Schmacher, who very kindly filmed, edited & shared it here.

Mushrooms are an invaluable addition to the plant-based pantry. From a culinary perspective, they lend rich, desirable umami flavor notes. But from the health perspective they really shine!

There are hundreds of varieties of funghi, from delicate enokis to prodigious king oysters, mild white buttons to the intensely flavored (& favored) porcini & morels. Mushrooms have the unique ability to stimulate our immune systems to fight infection & counter malignancies while ALSO curbing inflammation to counter chronic illnesses, & protect from an over-active immune effects in auto-immune disorders & allergies. Quite remarkable.

You can top this saute on flavorful crostini made from coarsely ground polenta, rich in antioxidants, vitamin Bs & fiber, or millet crostini, made similarly & also satisfyingly crunchy & creamy.

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Polenta Crostini con Funghi

Polenta's rich corn flavor & crispy outside-creamy inside textures pairs beautifully with a woodsy medley of sauteed mushrooms for a delicious canape with multiple health benefits.

Serves 4-6, Prep Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 1 hour


2 cups polenta (Bob's Mills for a course texture)

6 cups water or veggie broth

8-9 cups mixed mushrooms, chopped crudely & irregularly to add texture & interest

½ cup dried porcini, ground to powder in a spice mill OR reconstituted in warm water

6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme or 2-3 tsp dried thyme leaves

½ – 1 cup mushroom or veggie broth

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium red onion, medium dice (about 1 ½ cups)

No sodium veggie broth, dry vermouth or dry white wine, for deglazing

Freshly ground black pepper & sea or kosher salt, to taste

4 good quality canned peeled tomatoes, sliced in strips

Garnish with fresh thyme leaves or minced Italian parsley


Polenta Crostini:

Heat water to boiling. Sprinkle in polenta, stirring constantly. Reduce heat & continue to stir until thickened & sufficiently dense to hold its shape (approximately 10 minutes for Bob's Mill's), pour it on a wooden cutting board & allow to cool completely to solidify. Square off the edges & cut slices ¼” thick.

On a quality non-stick pan (avoid PFAs in teflon & cheaper cookware) on medium-low heat (under 500 degrees F), toast polenta slices until they are crispy. Flip to crisp up the underside.

Mushroom Saute:

Either grind the dried porcini to a powder OR reconstitute dried slices by pouring hot water to cover & allow to soften.

Heat stainless skillet on medium-high. After 3-4 minutes add onions, stirring, with pinch of salt to help them release moisture, lower flame to medium & saute until they soften & carmelize.

Deglaze with a VERY small amount of broth, vermouth or wine.

Add garlic & thyme, saute for a minute.

Add mushrooms, stirring & saute on medium-low until they release their water & soften. Adjust salt & pepper to taste. Add the porcini powder a little at a time, tasting as you go (it's potent!) until you achieve a rich, umami mushroomy taste & fragrance. Gently add tomato strips. Taste to adjust salt & pepper.


Top warm toasted crostini with heated mushrooms. Garnish with thyme leaves or freshly chopped Italian parsley. Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!


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