Food, Recipes

Vegan Italian Recipes: Roasted Veggie Baked Polenta

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Vegan Italian Recipes: Grilled Veggie Baked Polenta
The two sides of my family are Polish and (predominantly) German. We are loud, opinionated, and big eaters. But we have very little connection to our ethnic heritage (I’ve spent most of my life on the defense against the stereotypes toward both groups), and as such, most people, when they see us together at least, think we’re Italian. Once, when we were visiting my sister at college, her roommate asked her in all seriousness if my father–who’s 6′ 4″ and likes to lurk sullenly in doorways–was in the mafia.

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

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours and 45 minutes
Yield: 6 servings of polenta, 3 servings of veggies
Ingredients
  • 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

Directions

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.

Enjoy!

Also by Jennifer: Classic Vegan Carrot Cake

Related: Cheesy Garlic Polenta Fries

Vegan Polenta Mushroom Pancake

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Photos: Jennifer Kurdyla

Jennifer Kurdyla

Jennifer Kurdyla

Features Editor at Peaceful Dumpling
Features Editor Jennifer Kurdyla is a New York City girl with Jersey roots and a propensity for getting lost in the urban jungle. An experienced publishing professional, yoga instructor, home chef, sometimes-runner, and writer, she adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in 2008 and became vegan in 2013. She has written for The Harvard Review Online, The Rumpus, and Music & Literature and maintains a wellness-based website, Be Nourished, which features original writing and recipes. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram @jenniferkurdyla, Twitter @jenniferkurdyla, and Pinterest.
Jennifer Kurdyla
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