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Pesto polenta with balsamic roasted tomatoes

Pesto polenta with balsamic roasted tomatoes

I’m going to be honest guys, the first time I tried this recipe it was a total disaster.

My grandma hasn’t been very well lately, so I’ve been trying to go round and see her once a week, and cooking up some comfort food when I get the chance. I turn up, take over my grandparents’ kitchen for forty minutes and then me (and whichever cousins and siblings happen to be there that day) literally sit at my grandma’s feet, eating bowl food and listening to some of the stories she’s gathered over the past 80-odd years on this planet.

Okay, enough rose-tinted spectacles. The first time I make this polenta was at my Grandma’s house.

Its the house she’s lived in since my mother was a teenager, so you’d think I’d know where to find the utensils and kitchenware I need, but apparently not. So, I knew I’d add 120g of polenta to the pan, but here’s the thing.

I have no spacial awareness, like none. I cannot guess a volume or a distance with any semblance of accuracy. But, i didn’t wanna disturb my not-so-well Grandma to ask her to dig out a kitchen scale, so I winged it.

Big mistake.

Polenta grows, guys, like it grows. I had to swap to a bigger pan. Twice.

Polenta everywhere, on the stovetop, the sideboard, the floor, polenta handprints cemented onto every cupboard door as I searched for bigger and bigger pans to decant into.

Listen, long story short, weigh out your polenta. To be honest, if you don’t have the facilities to measure it somehow, just don’t make this recipe. I’m serious, we almost had polenta seeping under tghe kitchen door and dow the hall.

The good news though, is that leftover polenta is excellent. I’ll follow up this recipe soon with a recipe for polenta fries, but essentially just put all the polenta is a baking tray, flatten it out and refrigerate overnight. Then, the next eveing, cut your hunk of polenta down into fries, dredge in more cornflour and fry those bad boys until they’re crispy.

Is polenta gluten-free? Yes it is

Is polenta gluten-free?

Why, yes it is. Polenta is essentially coarsely-ground cornflour, so vegans are good to go with it, too.

Polenta can be quite bland-tasking if you don’t pep it up though (or if you only add enough pep for about a quarter of the amount of polenta you were supposed to make). This recipe adds garlic, basil, lemon and pine-nuts for a pesto flavour, nutritional yeast to add a sharp umami-cheesy edge, and coconut milk for creamy texture.

The trick with polenta is to keep stirring – it wants to be thick and smooth.

Pesto polenta with balsamic roasted tomatoes

Polenta is naturally gluten-free – its just coarsely ground cornflour. Use polenta to make this tasty vegan and gluten-free pesto polenta recipe.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Gluten-Free, Mediterranean, Vegan
Servings: 2
Author: zoepickburn


For the balsamic roasted tomatoes

  • 350 g Mixed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper (pinch)

For the pesto polenta

  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbsp. Pine nuts
  • 200 ml Coconut milk (half a can)
  • 300 ml Vegetable stock (gluten-free)
  • 2 tbsp. Lemon juice
  • 120 g Polenta
  • 3 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
  • 0.25 tsp. Nutmeg (grated)
  • 0.25 tsp. Salt
  • 2 tbsp. Fresh basil (approx.)


  • Start with the tomatoes: Heat the grill, then roughly chop the tomatoes into an oven dish. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Put the dish of tomatoes under the hot grill to cook for 15-20 minutes, while you make the rest of the polenta
  • Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low hob. Add in the garlic and pine nuts, and cook for a few minutes, stirring so they don’t stick to the pan until the garlic just begins to brown
  • Next, pour the coconut milk, stock and lemon juice into the pan and turn the heat up until the liquid is just beginning to bubble
  • Add the polenta, nutmeg, salt and nutritional yeast to the hot water and keep stirring. Stir constantly with a manual whisk for five minutes, until there are no lumps and all the liquid has been absorbed
  • Right before you serve, finely chop the basil and add it to the polenta in the pan, continuing to stir until the basil has wilted
  • pour the polenta into two bowls, making a dip in the centre of each, and top with the balsamic roasted tomatoes


The trick with polenta is to keep stirring. Use a manual whisk stir it constantly until you stir the polenta right onto the plate.

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Vegan polenta recipe

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