We had a Sunday morning ritual at the farm in Fiesole. My early-rising grandfather, Renato, would start a fire in the dining room and by the time everyone was up, it had died down to coals to use for cooking. These eggs cooked with polenta and mushrooms were my favorite “brunch.” We always used the same ancient coffee mugs for this dish. It was my job to break the egg into each mug—I was so proud to be the one responsible for topping our meal with its main ingredient.

Renato would then literally screw each cup into the deep bed of coals, cover them with a at piece of wood, and the heat would cook them quickly. These days, we use an oven, but the memories of the replace meal remain.



  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1∕2 cup diced guanciale or pancetta
  • 3 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1∕2-inch dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Two 3-inch sprigs fresh thyme
  • One 3-inch sprig fresh mint
  • Two 3-inch sprigs nipitella or 1 additional sprig fresh mint
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1∕2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3∕4 cup instant polenta
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for oiling the mugs
  • 4 large eggs
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the guanciale and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms, garlic cloves, thyme, mint, and nipitella. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occa- sionally, until they release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic and herbs.
  4. Bring 2.5 cups water, butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and gradually stir in the polenta.
  5. Cook just until the polenta begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat—the polenta should only be lightly thickened; it will warm up during baking.
  6. Lightly oil the four coffee mugs. Spoon half of the mushroom mixture among the mugs. Top each with equal amounts of the polenta, followed by the remaining mushrooms. Break an egg into each mug and lightly season with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Pecorino.
  7. Place the mugs on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top them with a second baking sheet or a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven. Let the mugs stand for a few minutes and serve hot.