Polenta with White Bean & Kale Ragout

This recipe has a lot going for it. The creamy polenta makes up the base of the dish, which is  simply the Italian version of Southern grits, made from course ground cornmeal. The ragout is a flavorful mix of white beans, shiitake mushrooms, kale, tomatoes, herbs & parmesan cheese. It is a meat-less meal that I find to be very soothing and satisfying, especially when eaten during these wet and cloudy days that we've been having lately in Atlanta. 

Scarlet Kale at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Scarlet Kale at Atlanta Botanical Garden

I demonstrated how to make this recipe at a cooking demonstration in the outdoor kitchen at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I highlighted kale that is growing abundantly in the edible garden. They have several varieties available including scarlet kale, Dinosour kale and green curly leaf kale. Any variety of kale will work well in this dish, but I especially like the scarlet kale for it's rich color and delicate flavor. 


  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup course ground cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 cups kale leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the cornmeal on top while mixing it in with a whisk, and stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid to prevent splattering, and cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is cooked and has the consistency of a creamy puree. Set aside, covered.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms and sauté over high heat for about 2 minutes, until the liquid emerges from them and evaporates. Add kale and sauté until wilted. Add the garlic, beans, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, remaining salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium-low heat.
  3. To serve, ladle the polenta into the center of four plates and pour the ragout on top of and around it. Sprinkle with the parsley and parmesan cheese.

Recipe Developed by: Chef Ashley R. Van Cise, RDN, LD