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. In Lombardy region, precisely in the Valtellina valley and in the surroundings of Bergamo and Brescia cities, you can find a coarse, darker polenta due to the use of buckwheat flour – Grano Saraceno in Italian – mixed with cornmeal, traditionally cooked with cheese and butter: it’s the polenta taragna.
The name ‘Taragna’ comes from the word ‘Tarai’, the stick used to constantly stir the polenta to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
The cultivation of buckwheat began in the area of Verona (Veneto) at the beginning of the 16th century, and in the second half of the same century also in Valtellina. The farmers who lived on the borders of Italy with Germany used buckwheat flour to make polenta.
With time buckwheat became one of the fundamental foods in the diet of the farmers of Valtellina and the Lombard Alps, consumed in the form of soups.
For our polenta taragna mini-pies 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 with some aged Taleggio or Gorgonzola and champignon mushrooms.
Makes: 7-8 mini-pies | Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 30 mins
- Champignon mushrooms: 250 g
- Ready Polenta Taragna: 250 g
- Taleggio or Gorgonzola: 50 g
- Butter, unsalted: 40 g
- Water: 300 ml
- Parmigiano, grated: 1 tbsp
- Parsley, fresh: to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): to taste
- Salt: to taste
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Boil the water in a pot and add the polenta flour, along with a teaspoon 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 – do not rinse them under running water or they will release back the water once cooking – 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 tinfoil molds for muffins or even ceramic ramekins. Spread a know of butter on the inside of the molds, then start filling them in layers: 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 to 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-pies are completely cold, before taking them out of their molds – otherwise, the layers will not stick together and they will fall apart.