This tomato ragout is a rich vegetarian stew made with fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, red wine, and olive oil that’s tossed with leafy greens and seared oyster mushrooms and served over some lusciously creamy polenta.
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Does anything say summer more than vine-ripened tomatoes? With cherry tomatoes showing up at the farmers market and getting sweeter every week, I think now is a great time to share this recipe for cherry tomato ragout with polenta.
This ragout recipe features not only sweet cherry tomatoes but also some of my other favorite farmers market finds. Swiss chard, fresh basil, and oyster mushrooms all get some attention here.
Ragu vs Ragout
In case you were wondering why this recipe is a called a ragout and not a ragù, I can tell you the difference now (thanks to Google). A ragù is a hearty Italian meat-based sauce often made with tomatoes or tomato paste but not always. A ragout is a French stew made with vegetables and may or may not have meat.
This ragout is meatless and you’ll never miss the meat. The tomatoes and olive oil cook down to a beautiful, silky sauce and the greens and mushrooms add body and texture.
Tips for making cherry tomato ragout and polenta
- Don’t skimp on the olive oil. Though it may be tempting to cut down on the olive oil (there’s a 1/2 cup), my recommendation is to use the full amount. I tested this recipe 3 times, once with about half the olive oil and the ragout just didn’t have the same richness.
- Don’t skimp on time (for the polenta). Creamy polenta requires a long slow simmer. Get the polenta started first and then let it simmer over low heat as you cook the ragout. Be sure to give the polenta an occasional stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pot to prevent any sticking or scorching.
This tomato ragout is a rich vegetarian stew made with fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, red wine, and olive oil that’s tossed with leafy greens and seared oyster mushrooms. It’s served over creamy polenta that is luscious thanks to the milk, parmesan cheese and slow cook time.
For the polenta
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups water
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup uncooked coarse-ground polenta
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the ragout
- 2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces oyster mushrooms, torn into large pieces
- 4 cups mixed cherry tomatoes
- Kosher salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups thinly sliced leafy greens (such as Swiss chard, or kale)
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, plus more for garnish if desired
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the polenta
- Heat milk. In a large saucepan, heat milk, water, garlic, thyme, salt, and black pepper over medium-high heat until it begins to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low or until mixture maintains a gentle simmer. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard garlic and thyme.
- Add polenta. Slowly add the polenta to the milk mixture a little at a time, whisking constantly.
- Simmer. Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a slow simmer, and cook, stirring and scraping bottom of pan often, until polenta is tender and creamy, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Add cheese. Remove polenta from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.
For the ragout
Make ragout while the polenta is simmering.
- Cook mushrooms. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add mushrooms in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until bottom side is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Season lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper, toss mushrooms, and continue to cook, tossing often and reducing heat as needed to avoid burning, until golden brown all over, about 3-5 minutes more. Transfer mushrooms to a plate. Set aside.
- Cook tomatoes. To the same skillet, add 1/2 cup olive oil and heat over medium-high just until fragrant. Carefully add tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and pinch of black pepper. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until most of the tomatoes have burst and juices start to release, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Continue cooking. Continue cooking tomatoes at an active simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to stick to bottom of pan and sauce has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Simmer with wine. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add red wine, and cook, stirring occasionally, until wine and tomatoes come together and a glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
- Finish. Add greens, and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 30 seconds. Stir in sliced basil, mushrooms, and butter. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice. Season with salt to taste.
- Serve. Divide polenta evenly among bowls. Top each serving with the ragout and extra chopped basil.
- Recipe adapted from Food & Wine, Feb 2021.
Keywords: creamy polenta, vegetarian ragout, tomato ragout