Maybe it’s that adopted ethnicity that makes us gravitate toward Italian cuisine, too, for most of our gatherings. Eating Italian as a vegan is a challenge if you’ve ever tried it, but this recipe combines all the glorious, refreshing flavors of a southern Italian meal while remaining completely plant-based. A vegan’s best cheesy friend–nutritional yeast–features here as well in full homage to the region’s more famous dairy product.
Although this meal is warm and baked at high oven temperatures, it’s great for spring and summer parties–imagine grilling those veggies! And with so many colorful ingredients, it will be a gorgeous, healthful option that’s easy to incorporate into your regular menu as well.
Italian-Style Baked Polenta and Roasted Veggies
- 1.5 cups cornmeal
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan butter substitute)
- 1 tbsp. dry thyme
- 1 tbsp. dry basil
- salt and pepper
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 2 bell peppers (any color/variety)
- for garish chopped fresh basil
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
For the polenta:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cornmeal, water, and milk over medium heat. Whisk together until smooth.
3. Add nutritional yeast, spices, and butter, and stir well.
4. Bring mixture to a boil (it will start to bubble, not a rolling boil). Lower to a simmer, then cook for around 20-30 minutes, until the mixture is thick. Stir continuously to prevent sticking.
5. Transfer to an 8×8 baking dish, and let set until the mixture is semi-solid. This may take up to an hour, and it’s worth waiting–so don’t skip this step.
6. Bake in the oven 45 minutes-1 hour, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is crusted and firm.
For the veggies:
1. Meanwhile, or while the polenta is setting, slice the eggplant into thin circles. Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp. of olive oil, plus salt, pepper, and thyme.
2. Chop the peppers into thin, long strips. In a separate dish/pan, arrange the peppers and tomatoes (leave whole), drizzle with 1 tbsp. oil plus salt, pepper, and basil.
3. Roast veggies in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, turning them very 20 minutes. The eggplant should be browned and releasing juices and may be done sooner than the peppers and tomatoes, which will be more shriveled-looking when done.
To serve, place a slice of polenta on top of a layer of eggplant. Top with peppers, tomatoes, and fresh basil.
Also by Jennifer: Classic Vegan Carrot Cake
Related: Cheesy Garlic Polenta Fries
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Photos: Jennifer Kurdyla