autumn condiments + sauces main meals vegan

Baked Polenta & Romesco Sauce w/ A Warm Bean Salad

April 13, 2011

Prepping Romesco Sauce

In southeast Queensland it’s really starting to feel like autumn and the weather has been perfectly beautiful these past couple of days. Autumn would have to be my favourite time of the year and it means in the kitchen that lighter summery meals and crisp salads are being swapped with warm tossed salads and baked dinners, mmmmm!

Here at Veggie num num we love polenta and I can’t believe I haven’t shared more recipes in the past, it seems one of those things I kind of forgot about for a while but, after this successful baked polenta dish, I think we may all be eating it a lot more often. The entire meal does take a little foreplanning but, once the polenta is prepped and the romesco sauce made, you can leave these two components for a few hours or even overnight until you are ready to bake the polenta. Then it’s just a matter of popping it in the oven; perfect for stress free entertaining!

The romesco sauce adds a wonderful depth of flavor, which means the dish does not suffer from the absence of cheese, something you’ll find in most baked polenta recipes. This is a truly tasty and satisfying dairy-free vegetarian recipe that makes a huge dish of beautiful baked polenta. We served it with a super quick and simple warm bean salad recipe, included below.

Prepping Romesco Sauce

Romesco Sauce

Preparation time: 30mins // Makes approx. 2-3 cups

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  • 3tbs olive oil
  • 350g (12 oz) small ripe tomatoes (I used a combination of mini roma & cherry)
  • 1 red capsicum (pepper), halved
  • 2 chillies, halved & deseeded if you wish
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed & peeled
  • 2 thick slices of cibatta (or similar Italian white bread), roughly torn
  • 30g (1 oz) raw almonds
  • 30g (1 oz) hazelnuts
  • 1 lemon, juice only

Lay the capsicum halves (cut side down) and tomatoes on a roasting dish and drizzle with a little olive oil. Pop them under a medium grill for about 5 minutes until the skins begin to blister and the capsicum skins blacken, watch them carefully to ensure the tomatoes don’t burn. Remove from under the grill place the capsicums in a plastic bag and allow to cool. Once cooled the skins should peel away easily. Set the skinned capsicum and grilled tomatoes aside.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized frying pan. Add the chillies, garlic, torn bread, almonds and hazelnuts. Fry over a medium heat until the bread and nuts are golden, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool a little.

In a food processor blend the capsicum and tomatoes with the fried bread mixture, adding lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth. This romesco sauce recipe can be prepared ahead of time and kept refrigerated.

{ The romesco sauce recipe was adapted from a recipe found in Australian Gourmet Traveller’s Food for Friends }

Baked Polenta & Romesco Sauce

Baked Polenta & Romesco Sauce

Preparation Time: 55mins (+ 1 hour refrigeration time) // Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups polenta (cornmeal)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1½ cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • romesco sauce (as prepared above)
  • 2 thick slices of cibatta (or similar Italian white bread), roughly torn
  • 1 tbs za’atar spice mix [or use any combination of spices you like, try sesame seeds, cumin, turmeric and/or sumac]
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Bring the stock to boil in a medium sized pot, gradually pour in the polenta in a steady stream. Turn down the heat to low and cook the polenta for 10-15 minutes, stirring, until the polenta is smooth and soft (not gritty). Remove from the heat and stir through the torn basil leaves.

Pour the prepared polenta into a greased baking dish and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm (polenta can be kept refrigerated overnight).

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/356°F

In a food processor or by hand process the slices of bread with the za’atar to form coarse breadcrumbs adding the olive oil, set aside.

Turn the polenta out of the baking dish and slice into thin slices.

Using the same baking dish spoon in a third of the romesco sauce top with a layer of the sliced polenta spoon in another layer of sauce and repeat finishing with a layer of sauce. Top with the prepared breadcrumbs and bake in the moderate oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden and baked polenta and romesco sauce cooked and bubbling.

A delicious vegan recipe perfect for the whole family! We served it as a complete meal with the warm bean salad that follows.

A Warm Bean Salad

Preparation time: 10 minutes // Serves 4

  • 120g (4 oz) fresh green beans, washed and sliced in half lengthways
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 30g (1 oz) raw almonds
  • ¼ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp apple cider (or white wine) vinegar
  • 1 tbs olive oil

In a frying pan fry the onion, beans, zucchini and almonds in a little olive oil over a medium/high heat for 5-6 minutes until nicely coloured.

In a small bowl whisk the Dijon mustard with the vinegar and olive oil. Remove the beans from the heat and toss through the dressing, serve immediately as a great quick and healthy side dish.


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  • Heidi @ Food Doodles April 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Oooh, that looks so good! Everything in this post appeals to me. I’m going to save these recipes for later because they all sound amazing! 😀

  • Jennifer (Delicieux) April 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I LOVE romesco sauce. I’d never thought of combining it with polenta though, but it looks amazing!

    Your cats are adorable by the way!

  • Charles (FiveEuroFood) April 13, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Never been a massive fan of polenta – I think maybe it’s the way my mother cooked it. Perhaps it’s time to give it another try because I always think it looks so much fun to cook with!

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen April 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Baked polenta is such great comfort food, and I love that this can be assembled ahead of time.

  • sally April 14, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Yum! This looks delightful! I am a huge fan of polenta and romesco sauce.

  • Trudy ~ Veggie num num April 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks for the comments lovely people :)

    Charles you should definitely try polenta again, it has such a lovely flavour and texture and works beautifully both as a side and a main dish!

  • pb April 14, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    hi there,
    this is quite unique.. i have never used polenta, but I have some cornmeal in my pantry, so am going to try this, in a small batch at first. This is the first time I ever heard of romesco sauce. It looks quite robust, with the red pepper and the chillies.

    silly question, when you say slice the polenta, are you doing it horizontally, to resemble lasagna like noodles?


  • Kathryn April 15, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I, stupidly, always forget that people are experiencing different seasons around the world! That dish is a beaut, though! I’ve never actually tried making polenta myself, but it doesn’t sound too tricky at all. I’ll have to try this one!

  • Trudy ~ Veggie num num April 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Hi pb not a silly question at all! I sliced the slab of polenta in half to give me two slabs about 1-2cm (3/4 inch) thick, I then sliced these into strips about 6cm (2 inch) wide. So yes something like a thick lasagna noodle. Hope this is helpful and that you try out a batch of polenta soon :)

    Polenta is pretty simple to whip up Kathryn and super tasty so I do hope you give it a go :)

    Thank you both for the comments!!

  • Sara April 16, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Hi Trudy, I discovered your site today and I “tweeted” this at you but I just realized it’s probably better to comment where you might be more likely to see it. Your site design is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time! Simply viewing your recipes on my reader won’t be enough it’s THAT good. Love love love it!

    (And of course, the food looks good too.)


  • Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets April 18, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Love your polenta dish and your weathered boards in the background AND your lovely view from your house. Beautiful and tasty all around!

  • Trudy ~ Veggie num num April 19, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Hello Sara!! Thanks so very much!!! And super happy to hear you’re loving Veggie num num :-) Back at you, by the way, your site is simply beautiful, so many gorgeous photographs!!

    Thank you Xiaolu!!