When one thinks of typical Italian cuisine, one’s gaze immediately turns to dishes such as pasta or pizza, fish or meat. However, there are many recipes that tell of distant traditions, snow-capped peaks, burning fireplaces, and lots of togetherness. 

This woodcutter’s polenta and mushrooms recipe has very ancient origins that are lost in the traditions of the Italian Alps, in the province of Sondrio. The woodcutters, after exhausting days of work in the woods in the cold and frost of the harsh Alpine winters, used to collect wild mushrooms, take them home, and cook them as a side dish with polenta and a good glass of wine.

Woodcutter’s Polenta and Mushrooms Article

This polenta and mushrooms recipe, made from modest ingredients but so rich in flavor and nutrients, has accompanied entire generations of woodcutters by warming them up and helping them recover their energy after endless days spent splitting wood in the forests of northern Italy. 

The explosion of flavors in this comfort food dish is incredible: the sweetish taste of corn flour, which when combined with water creates the magical polenta. This contrasts perfectly with the wild flavor of mushrooms, onion, and garlic. 

Even nowadays, this polenta mushroom recipe is frequently cooked in the mountain areas of Sondrio province. It is prepared strictly by men, as tradition dictates. In January and February, the coldest months, it is still customary to gather friends and relatives around the fire, open a bottle of good red wine, and talk about what happened during the day while waiting for the head of the family to cook the polenta of the woodcutters. 

When wild mushrooms can’t be picked in the woods, they are replaced by white mushrooms, which does not alter in the slightest the essence of this typical wild mushroom polenta recipe from the Italian Alps.


  • Wild mushrooms are preferred for this creamy polenta with mushrooms recipe. However, harvesting this type of mushroom requires great experience, in order to avoid picking poisonous varieties. Therefore, we suggest you use fresh mushrooms available from supermarkets instead. This might be classic white button mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, or a mix of different mushroom varieties.
  • If you’d like to add more flavor to your sautéed mushrooms, here are some suggestions:
    • Add up to a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (think Italian seasoning). This might be thyme, rosemary, sage leaves, or oregano.
    • Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
    • Drop in two teaspoons of red wine vinegar.
  • Instead of cooking the polenta in water, you can use vegetable broth for added flavor.
  • If you like, you can substitute onion for green onion.


What do you eat with Italian polenta?

This polenta mushroom dish works as a main dish as is or you can serve it as a side dish. Some main meal suggestions:

You may also want to add some freshly grated parmesan cheese on top to accompany the fresh parsley.

Is polenta healthier than rice?

Polenta is considered healthier than rice. This is because it’s high in protein and fiber but lower in calories and fat compared to rice.

Can you overcook polenta?

Yes, you can overcook polenta but fortunately, it’s an easy mistake to correct by adding more liquid until it reaches a creamy consistency once more.

Is polenta with mushrooms vegan?

Simply swap the butter for vegan butter and this creamy polenta and mushrooms dish is instantly vegan. It’s also automatically gluten-free.

How do you store leftover polenta?

Creamy polenta is definitely best served immediately. However, leftover polenta can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. But what you want to do is place a couple of paper towels over the polenta before sealing it with plastic wrap. I highly recommend making fried polenta or polenta pizza with leftovers.

If you have leftovers, you want to keep the mushrooms separate and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for the same amount of time. You can reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop on low heat. You can add them to the pizza or even serve them on toast. Delicious!

Can you freeze leftover polenta?

I don’t recommend freezing this creamy mushroom polenta recipe as it changes both its shape and texture.

Woodcutter’s Polenta and Mushrooms Article

Woodcutter’s Polenta and Mushrooms

3.45 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 People
Calories 354 kcal



  • cups Water
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Butter, optional
  • cups Corn flour (coarse cornmeal)


  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 clove Garlic, chopped
  • 1 Onion, finely diced
  • 2 pounds White mushrooms, sliced thin
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Black pepper
  • 1 cup Fresh parsley, finely chopped, plus some leaves for garnish
  • 1 tbsp Tomato paste


  • For the polenta, bring the water, salt, and butter to a boil.
  • Slowly whisk in the corn flour. Bring the mixture back to a boil.
  • Simmer the polenta, stirring every few minutes while the water is absorbed, for 30 minutes, until the polenta is creamy and thick like porridge.
  • Begin preparing the mushrooms while the polenta is cooking. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and wait for it to darken without letting it burn.
  • Add the onion and mix it with a wooden spoon for about 4-5 minutes, until it’s golden.
  • Stir in the mushrooms and cover the pan with a lid. Let the mushrooms cook for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the lid from the pan and add the salt, pepper, parsley, and tomato paste. Mix everything well with a spoon and cover the pan. Simmer the mushrooms for 10 minutes, until soft.  Taste the mushrooms and add salt and pepper, if needed.
  • Scoop the polenta onto a plate. Create a well in the middle of the polenta with a large spoon. Spoon mushrooms into the well. Garnish the dish with fresh parsley leaves.


Calories: 354kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 12gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gSodium: 659mgPotassium: 1006mgFiber: 6gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 1329IUVitamin C: 28mgCalcium: 111mgIron: 3mg
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About the Author: Antonello Mortilla
Antonello is a recipe developer from Italy and believes living a “good life” means rejoicing in the little things every moment and every day: your daughter's smile, cooking a meal for your wife, hugging your parents, sharing a slice of chocolate cake and a good cup of coffee with your best friend.
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