The Polenta Pizza Experiment & a Free-Form Salad Recipe

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I’ve been talking with a gluten-allergic friend of mine for a while about making gluten-free, dairy-free pizza.  The idea popped into my head again yesterday, and as I was contemplating gluten-free options, I thought of polenta as a base instead of wheat crust.  I hadn’t made polenta in years, but the thought stuck and I decided I was up for a little experimenting.

cooking polenta
I used a very basic polenta recipe from The Clueless Vegetarian and mixed in a bit of vegan parmesan near the end of its cooking time.  It took longer than I expected, so I think next time I’ll have to simmer it at a slightly higher heat.  Some garlic would make a good addition as well.

the polenta pizza experiment 01
When it was done, I spread it out in a pizza pan and let it set a little before putting some pesto, veggies, and Daiya on top and baked the whole thing the same way I would a traditional pizza.  The end result wasn’t quite what I was expecting, so there’s no polenta pizza recipe yet, but there will be more experimentation to that end in the near future!

the polenta pizza experiment 02
Problems that need fixing:

  • the polenta wasn’t firm enough
  • pesto was okay as topping, but tomato sauce would be better
  • should add a heartier topping in addition to veggies — white beans or vegan sausage would both be good

I’m thinking of putting the polenta in a pie plate instead of a pizza pan next time, chilling it to set it a bit more, and pre-baking it before adding toppings.  I’d forgotten that polenta is kind of sloppy when it’s warm, so the pizza came out in piles of cornmeal instead of slices.  The concept is a good one, though.  I’ll be working on it more when I restock the cornmeal.

Since polenta is a lot lighter than traditional pizza crust, I threw together a quick side salad that I am happy enough with to share the recipe.  I didn’t really measure anything, so the amounts are approximate.  This salad is pretty versatile…add more or less of anything to your taste, or make a huge bowl to serve more people.  Throwing in a few chickpeas and maybe some leftover cooked grain would turn it into a good lunch.  As always, the fresher the produce, the better.  I used farmstand tomatoes and farmer’s market arugula…yum!

Chopped Tomato Arugula Salad
serves 2-3

chopped tomato arugula salad
1/2 a large tomato (like Brandywine), chopped small
1-2 handfuls fresh arugula, chopped
1-2 marinated artichoke hearts, minced
pinch of oregano
pinch of basil
drizzle of olive oil

Combine vegetables in a small bowl.  Add herbs and oil.  Toss to coat.  Chill until ready to serve.

chopped tomato arugula salad bowl


About the Author:

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She has been a member of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce since August 2017. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, play silly card games and knit socks.
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  1. Emma  August 2, 2011

    I made this polenta pizza a little while back and it was a bit too soft for my liking too. I think maybe it’s just how polenta is, unless you cook it really thin perhaps? Or maybe bake the base for a bit before adding the toppings to get it crisper? Looks yummy anyway as does the quick salad.

  2. Megan  August 4, 2011

    You can usually get the polenta firmer by cooking it with a little less water, so that it’s super thick before you spread it onto the pan, and by pre-baking the polenta before you add your toppings. That way it doesn’t have too much residual moisture – polenta will soften when warm, and vegetables will add extra moisture, so you want to give it every chance of holding together. A thicker layer can help to make it more solid, too, but you’ll need to counter it with really gutsy toppings if you do that, else the flavour can be a little bland. 🙂

    • Sam  August 4, 2011

      Thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely try pre-baking next time. 🙂


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