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Polenta Pesto Torta

Polenta is an excellent grain substitute when you're eating gluten-free, but always check the label as some polenta does include wheat flour. And always check chicken stock to make sure it is gluten-free, as many pre-made chicken stocks do contain gluten. Once you're in the clear with those ingredients, go crazy! This impressive looking dish is a crowd pleaser at holidays, or any dinner party where you want to make a delicious impression.

Photograph by Daniel Montoya

RECIPE: Polenta cakes with pesto and roasted tomatoes

Yields 15 servings

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes plus 2 1/2 hours chill time


Polenta Layer:

  • Butter, for greasing the pan
  • 36 ounces of pre-cooked gluten-free polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups gluten-free chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Gruyere, grated
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Tomato Layer:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large or 4 small shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Pesto Layer:

I like to use pre-made pesto as a cheat, but if you’re making your own, here are the ingredients:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns


  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare pesto if you have not purchased by grinding pistachios, garlic cloves, basil, salt and pepper in mortar and pestle or food processor. Transfer mixture to small bowl and add olive oil and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Heat pre-made gluten-free polenta on medium in a large skillet in butter and chicken stock. After polenta is thoroughly combined with wet ingredients, add cheese, stirring after each addition. Mix thoroughly and allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes on medium-low heat.
  4. Remove polenta mixture from heat and spread evenly in parchment covered springform pan. Transfer to refrigerator and allow to chill for at least 20 minutes.
  5. While polenta is cooling, make tomato layer. Heat olive oil on medium in a large skillet. Add shallots and cook until soft, approximately 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn down heat to low and stir in tomatoes. Add red pepper flakes and allow tomato mixture to simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper immediately before removing from heat.
  6. Remove polenta from refrigerator and spread pesto mixture evenly on top. Spoon tomato mixture on top and transfer back to refrigerator. Allow to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
  7. Remove polenta torta from springform and slice to serve.

(In the photographs here, we used a biscuit cutter for circle-shaped portions before adding the pesto and tomatoes on top.)

This recipe courtesy of "The Gluten-Free Cheat Sheet" by April Peveteaux (Perigee/Penguin 2015)

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