Italian Regional Recipes Starters

Buckwheat Polenta Mini-Cakes with Champignons

If you think of polenta you probably imagine a brightly yellow dense preparation that has sweetcorn flour as its main ingredients; but the tradition of eating polenta is older than the introduction of sweetcorn in the 16th century, and many different variations of this hot and warm porridge have been cooked throughout the centuries. In the Valtellina valley and in the surroundings of Bergamo and Brescia, you can find a coarse, darker polenta made with buckwheat, traditionally cooked with cheese and butter: it’s the polenta taragna.

Polenta can be eaten right after cooking, when it’s still warm and fluid, or it can be fried and even baked. It’s usually a side dish that accompanies sausages, braised beef or pork, meat stews and sometimes mushrooms.

For our polenta taragna, we wanted a simple recipe that would combine all the ingredients that make us think of a small restaurant in the Lombard mountains: some steamy polenta, a slice of aged Taleggio, and some delicious champignons.

And if you’re a fan of buckwheat, check out how to bake a perfect Traditional Country-Style Buckwheat Focaccia and how to prepare the best Pizzoccheri della Valtellina you’ll ever eat.


Makes: 6-8 mini-cakes | Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 20 mins

  • Champignon mushrooms: 250 g
  • Polenta taragna: 200 g
  • Taleggio or gorgonzola: 50 g
  • Butter, unsalted: 30 g
  • Water: 300 ml
  • Parmesan, grated: 1 tbsp
  • Parsley, fresh: to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): to taste
  • Salt: to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Boil the water in a pot and add the polenta flour, along with a pinch of salt. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, then turn down the heat and add the butter. Mix the polenta thoroughly for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Clean the mushrooms with a kitchen cloth or a mushroom brush, then use a knife to peel the outer layer of the stems. Cut the mushrooms into slices.

Peel the garlic cloves. Heat up two tablespoons of oil in a pan and brown the garlic, then add the parsley and the mushrooms and stir fry the content of the pan for about 10 minutes.

Cut the cheese in small cubes or thin slices.

Take some one-use tinfoil molds for muffins. Spread a thin layer of butter on the inside of the molds, then start filling them in layers: first some mushrooms, then some cheese, then some polenta, and so on until the mold is full. Make sure to finish with a layer of polenta, then top it with the parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake for 5 minutes at 200°C.

Once the polenta mini-cakes are cooked through, take them out of the oven and let them cool down before serving them.

Tip: It’s important to wait until the mini-cakes are completely cold, before taking them out of their molds – otherwise, the layers will not stick together and the cakes will fall apart.

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