Polenta Torte

by Mary on March 30, 2013

polenta torte on a white plate

polenta torte after an overnight rest

Long time since my last recipe thanks to lots of skating and lots of experimentation with this polenta torte! In February my husband and I ate at the hippie-rustic Tweets Cafe in Edison, WA. His lunch was a baked square of polenta torte which arrived set amidst a full plate of savory black beans, topped with slices of roasted beets and sweet potatoes and filled with a middle layer of tangy, soft farmstead cheese and roasted carrots (maybe onions, too?). It was memorable enough to inspire quite a few polenta tortes in my kitchen, finally settling on this version with a pesto layer, a vegan nut-based ‘cheese’ layer, and lots of caramelized onions.

It’s best made ahead, cooled and set in the springform pan to use the next day, but you can use it soon out of the oven if you like. It would likely be even better with a soft dairy cheese in the middle and parmesan in the basil and the polenta, but the nut-based ‘cheese’ is a a healthy, vegan substitute for our day-to-day cooking. My husband really likes it.  My son thinks I should omit the sharp apple cider vinegar in the ‘cheese’ so the pesto flavor can stand out more and he may be right– more experiments may lie ahead.

For my last few versions I used De La Estancia polenta, made from higher protein, lower starch flint corn from Argentina. It is very bright yellow, smooth, creamy, and cooks in one or two minutes though it is not ‘instant’ polenta. I have no business connection with the company but learned about their product by meeting the producer years ago at a food fair. I like regular polenta, well, except for the stirring, but I prefer La Estancia despite its higher price. Here in Puget Sound I buy it at PCC co-op, I’m not sure what other stores have it though you can buy it online.

a slice of polenta torte

polenta torte half an hour out of the oven

Happy cooking! And if you come up with your own version of polenta torte let me know in the comments!

3.0 from 1 reviews
Polenta Torte with Pesto and Vegan 'Cheese'
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Polenta with lots of goodies like caramelized onions, pesto, and a nut-based vegan cheese.
Serves: 8
  • For the caramelized onions:
  • 2 large onions, chopped (about 1½# of onions)
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • For the pesto:
  • 5 oz. basil leaves (2½ cups very tightly packed whole leaves). This is about the amount of leaves you get from two 4 oz. packages of basil packed with the stems and leaves)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • For the 'cheese' layer, blend in a high-powered blender:
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts and 1 cup pine nuts (or 2 cups of either one)
  • 2 Tbsp. mellow white or chickpea miso (any light miso)
  • juice of 2 small or one extra large lemon (about 4 Tbsp.)
  • ½ tsp. yogurt starter (powder)
  • For the polenta:
  • 5½ cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1½ cups coarse polenta
  • (caramelized onions)
  • To grease the pan:
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1. Chop the onions, put in a large frying pan with the olive oil, begin slowly caramelizing them at a low heat on the stove. It will take about 40 minutes on a gas stove, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, pick the leaves off the basil stems, measure, combine in blender or food processor with olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt. Process until combined with a medium texture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Make the vegan 'cheese' by combining the macadamia and/or pine nuts, miso, lemon juice and yogurt starter in a high-powered blender. Stir with tamper (for a Vitamix) or stop the blender and scrape down the sides a few times to get the mixture smooth.
  5. Prepare springform pan by greasing it with olive oil.
  6. Bring water and salt to a boil, add polenta. If you are using La Estancia polenta, stir for 2 minutes. If you are using regular polenta, stir for five minutes, then simmer, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for about 30 minutes until polenta is soft.
  7. Stir caramelized onions into polenta.
  8. Put half of the polenta into the springform pan.
  9. Add the pesto layer, then the 'cheese' layer.
  10. Top with the second half of the polenta.
  11. Bake until firm, about 40-50 minutes.
  12. Let stand for at least 20 minutes in the springform pan after baking to let the torte set (longer is better). Or cool and save to unmold and re-heat later.
  13. Unmold and serve.




{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

The Wimpy Vegetarian March 30, 2013 at 11:22 pm

What a great idea for polenta! I love this – I foresee experiments starting in my kitchen too, starting with yours!
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mary March 31, 2013 at 5:49 am

Thank you Susan, I look forward to seeing what you come up with!


Kathy March 31, 2013 at 8:54 pm

This looks really good. I’ve never tried a torte with polenta, but yours looks very appetizing and versatile.


mary March 31, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Hi Kathy, thanks for stopping by and commenting, I appreciate it!


Doreen Pendgracs April 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm

This looks like a fair amount of work, but I bet it’s worth it! I love polenta. Thx for sharing.
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Mary April 2, 2013 at 1:40 am

Yes, there is a lot of prep if you are making your own pesto and ‘cheese.’ I prefer to make it ahead for the next day, it takes off the time pressure and also it tastes better the next day.


Hannah April 2, 2013 at 1:43 am

Wow, I am completely in love with this concept! I’ve never seen anything like it before, but it’s closely enough related to a panini sandwich and chickpea panisse that I can practically taste it already. I absolutely have to try this, asap. I bet it would be awesome tossed on the grill in the summertime, too.
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mary April 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Hi Hannah, I hadn’t heard of a chickpea panisse until you mentioned it now, have looked it up and it’s something that I want to try, thanks!


Theresa April 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Wow, this looks like an awesome recipe, carmelized onions, basil, homemade vegan cheese, must make this!
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mary April 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Thanks, Theresa!


Brittany April 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm

This looks delicious, and I MUST visit that cafe!!


mary April 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Oh yes, you should visit them, either in the winter (you can watch birds nearby) or in the spring with the flower fields. I would have done a review, but we were having too much fun to stop and take pictures!


Sunnie April 3, 2013 at 4:29 am

What a creative recipe! I’m yet to try making polenta- it sounds amazing 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!
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Ivy April 3, 2013 at 6:30 am

YUM! Looks really appetizing & delicious! 🙂
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john April 4, 2013 at 2:28 am

I love polenta! But have never made a torte out of it. Terrific idea! This looks exceptionally tasty – thanks so much.
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mary April 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Thanks, John!


Kathrin Dellago April 5, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Great recipe that looks delicious. Maybe I’ll serve it with a nice tomato salad. Thank you for sharing. Kathrin


mary April 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Great idea!


Tempie April 6, 2013 at 2:58 am

This sounds delicious, Mary! I’ve never eaten “cheese” made from nuts, but it sounds interesting and tasty.


mary April 7, 2013 at 5:59 am

Thanks, Tempie!


Kiran April 8, 2013 at 3:42 am

I’ve never tasted polenta before. Shocker, right? 😀
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Lori April 8, 2013 at 4:14 am

The husband loves polenta so this will be on the menu soon ~ looks great!
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Mary April 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I hope he will like this!


Chere Michelle April 29, 2013 at 3:47 am

Oh. My……wow. This is an AMAZING idea. I am currently loving polenta but racking my brain and the internet for new and inventive ways to eat it. This is a fabulous sounding dish. I’m excited again!


Hazel June 1, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Gosh, this looks so creative and innovative. I’ve never made a polenta torte before but this looks great. I really like the combination of flavours you’ve used too. Monday night’s dinner, I think!


mary June 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Thanks, Hazel, I hope you will like it!


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