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Polenta Taragna with Mushrooms

By Chef John Ash

Polenta taragna, made with buckwheat, is a typical dish from Valtellina. The name comes from the word tarai, the stick used to constantly stir the polenta to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Historically the polenta cooking in poor families’ kitchens was black because it was made exclusively with buckwheat flour. The result was a very nutritious dish, but with a very strong taste. Those who could afford it added a little cornmeal to soften the impact on the palate, thus creating the recipe as we know it today. Excellent with the 2021 Owsley Pinot Noir.

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    Serves 4

    Total Time

    Prep Time

    Difficulty Level


    4 1/2 cups of water

    4 cups low salt chicken stock

    3/4 tablespoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning the mushrooms

    (2 1/2 cups) polenta taragna. Or you can use 2/3 buckwheat flour + 1/3 cornmeal 10 ounces Fontina or Taleggio cheese of semi-fat cheese

    8 ounces unsalted butter

    Extra virgin olive oil

    8 ounces exotic, cultivated mushrooms such as Hen of the Woods and/or Trumpet Freshly ground black pepper

    1/4 cup chopped basil leaves


    1. Heat water and stock (8 1/2 cups total) to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot. When it boils, reduce the heat to low and add salt. Slowly pour in 2 1/2 cups of polenta taragna flour, stirring vigorously with a whisk.

    2. When combined, start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 50 minutes/1 hour. Note: you must stir the polenta taragna frequently, at least every 2-3 minutes. The polenta cooking this long will stick to the pot, especially to the bottom.

    3. While the polenta is cooking, remove the rind from the cheese and cut it into small pieces. Cut the butter into pieces as well. 10 minutes before the end of cooking, add the cheese first and then 6 ounces of the butter.

    4. Stir until the cheese and butter have melted into the polenta. Turn off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms. Melt the remaining butter and a splash of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the polenta taragna into a large bowl or individual serving dishes, top with mushrooms and basil and serve piping hot.

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