Crispy Baked Polenta with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Crispy Baked Polenta with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto |

It’s weird – I love cornbread, corn muffins, corn tortillas, corn bread stuffing, but I’ve never been into polenta. It’s not that I disliked it – I just didn’t have the urge to make it, order it or eat it. But my polenta perspective shifted recently when I ordered short ribs and polenta at friend’s birthday dinner and liked the polenta as much as the beef. This week, I saw a recipe for smoked porter-braised beef short ribs with polenta in Food and Wine (via the women at Food52) and made it immediately (with gluten free beer). And it was as good as it looks.


As a new polenta fan, I ventured into my cookbook library to find some polenta recipes I had previously skimmed over. Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, an old favorite, inspired me to bake and “bread” the polenta after letting it set, which is what I’ve done here. Crispy baked polenta with sun dried tomato pesto it full of flavor, texture and seasonality. It’s warm and comforting, but the little pop of basil gives a nod to warmer months to come.


Crispy Baked Polenta with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto | ourfourforks.comWHY IT’S HEALTHY// Crispy baked polenta with sun dried tomato pesto is gluten free, vegan and dairy free. Polenta (buy the non-GMO, organic kind as commercial corn is a highly sprayed mono-crop) is a traditional low-fat, gluten free carb that pairs well with almost any meat or vegetable. Walnuts, which are used to “bread” the polenta and in the sun dried tomato pesto, are full of healthy fat, are a vegetarian source of omega-3s, and contain essential amino acids. Tomatoes are nature’s richest source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which has been shown to protect skin from harmful UV rays. They have also been linked to lowering the risk of cancer. //


Crispy Baked Polenta with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto | ourfourforks.comCrispy Baked Polenta with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto | ourfourforks.comCrispy Baked Polenta with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto |

Crispy Baked Polenta with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Crispy baked polenta with sun dried tomato pesto is a delicious gluten free and vegan entrée full of texture and flavor. Polenta is cooked and then baked, topped with sautéed mushrooms.
Serves: 4-6 servings
For the polenta:
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups water or broth
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the crust and assembly:
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
For the mushrooms:
  • 3 cups baby portobellos, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • splash or wine, sherry or vegetable broth
For the sun dried tomato pesto:
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ cup sun dried tomatoes (not in olive oil)
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts
  • ½ cup fresh basil, packed
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
For the polenta:
  1. Bring the salt and water to a boil. Gradually add in the cornmeal and stir quickly with a whisk until the polenta begins to thicken. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the polenta tastes done (see notes).
  2. Saute the onions, garlic, salt and oil on medium heat for about 7 minutes, until soft. Stir the onion mixture into the cooked polenta.
  3. Spread the warm polenta onto a oiled baking tray or 10 in pie pan (I used a 9 x 9 in baking tray) so that the polenta is about ¾ inch thick. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula and allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly oil a baking tray.
For the crust and assembly:
  1. In a blender or food processor, add the walnuts, cornmeal and salt and blend into a flour.
  2. With a table knife, cut the cool polenta into squares, rectangles or diamonds, light coat with olive oil (I used my fingers) and dredge both sides into the walnut crust mixture. Place on oiled baking tray and repeat with remaining polenta cutlets.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown on both sides.
For the mushrooms:
  1. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Add the salt, parsley, and thyme, turn up the heat and add a splash of wine, sherry or broth. Stir until most of the liquid is evaporated and remove from heat. Set aside.
For the sun dried tomato pesto:
  1. In a food processor, process the garlic and walnuts. Add the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil and cherry tomatoes and process again. While the machine is on, slowly add the olive oil and then the cherry tomatoes until pesto is rather smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
You want your polenta to be thick, but pourable. The amount of water needed and cooking time may vary depending on the type of cornmeal you use - the finer the cornmeal you use, the faster it will cook. You want it the consistency of thick porridge - mine took about 15 minutes to cook.



  1. says

    ugh, polenta! i love it so much. and as much as i love the solid/baked/thick & congealed polenta, i’ve never actually prepared it that way. i’m considering this a most excellent opportunity! thanks for the gorgeous recipe.

  2. Kelly says

    Iʻm allergic to walnuts. Do you think removing them from the crust would negatively affect the texture? Could I replace it with another nut? Thanks!

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