Monday 24 March 2008

Polenta Pizza Tart

A desire to try a polenta based pizza, the opportunity to take some for my sister and niece to taste yesterday, and a blog event on gluten free party food, were all inspiration for making a version of the Zucchini Polenta Tart from Chocolate and Zucchini.

A trip to the supermarket to buy ingredients didn’t bode well. Riding my bike home my zucchini was in a calico bag which somehow got mashed in the spokes of my bike so some zucchini had to be discarded. (see the photo!). Together with cracking the lid of my food processor and pulling apart a springform cake tin recently, it is beginning to look like a trail of destruction. Happily, the tart overcame all obstacles.

Clotilde called it a Zucchini Polenta Tart because it really only had zucchini and a little parmesan on it. I desired her crispy base but needed more than one vegetable, because I had envisaged that mine would be more pizza than tart. Some time ago I had found a recipe for Veganmania’s Polenta Pizza. Like a magpie, I used bits of both recipes as well as my style of pizza-making.

I served it straight out of the oven, accompanied by leftover Autumnal Roast Vegetable Salad. The base was crisp outside and oozy inside but not terribly tasty. When I tasted it after it had sat for some time I could taste the flavours in the polenta base more. I recently came across some advice on salt which noted that high heat dulls the taste buds, so food should be cooled before tasting. But the intense flavourings of the toppings were excellent.

I enjoyed the base but I am not sure I would claim it tastes like a regular bready pizza base. But if I did this again with pizza in mind, I would make less polenta (probably 1 cup like Veganmania, not 1½ cups like Clotilde) to make a thinner base. I was surprised at how long it took to bake. It is probably no longer than making a yeast pizza base from scratch, but a lot slower than a pre-made pizza base. Veganmania’s recipe instructed to spread the polenta base into a pizza pan, cool 10 minutes, add toppings, bake 20 minutes and put it under the griller (broiler) for 10 minutes. I would be interested to try following this style of preparation but I would probably leave it in the oven a bit longer. I would also be interested to try it with my usual pizza toppings (tomato sauce, capsicum, mushrooms, olives, cheese).

I took the leftovers to my parents’ yesterday, for my gluten free sister and niece to sample. When I showed it to my little niece, Grace, she immediately said, ‘I don’t like it’. (I don’t think she has tasted pizza before.) I shrugged and had a small piece myself. Grace then decided to taste a piece and declared that she did like it after all. Small kids are so fickle. I left before my sister Susie tasted it so I am not sure what she thought.

Lastly, I am sending this to Linda from Make Life Sweeter who is hosting an event with the wonderful title Go Ahead Honey, it’s Gluten Free. This month’s theme is Birthday Baking for Children. Pizza is perfect party food that most kids love, and would particularly please kids like Grace who do not have much desire for sweet baking.

Polenta Pizza Tart
(adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini and Veganmania)

- 250 g polenta (about 1½ cups)
- 3¾ cups vegetarian stock
- 2 tbsp chives or other fresh herbs (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 600g zucchini
- 150g yellow squash (not pumpkin)
- olive oil
- 1 bulb garlic, unpeeled
- 80g semi-sun-dried tomatoes
- ¼ cup sliced black olives
- two handfuls of grated tasty cheese*

Soak the polenta in 1½ cups water. While it is soaking, bring 3¾ stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add the polenta and water mixture and whisk as it is added. Stir constantly over low heat for 7-10 minutes until it is thickened. (Alternatively, follow the instructions on your packet – I followed Veganmania’s instructions because my packet said to stir 1 cup polenta in 1 cup water for 30 minutes!). Place some on a spoon to cool a little and taste before adding seasoning as desired.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Line a 25cm spring form cake tin with baking paper. Spread the polenta into the tin. Place in the oven for 25-45 minutes til a golden crust has formed. (Clotilde put her in 15 minutes and then took the rim off the spring form tin and cooked an additional 10 minutes to crisp the sides. I had mine in for 25 minutes and then forgot about it when the timer went off and so I found the sides were crisp without taking the rim off.)

While the polenta cooks, prepare the vegetables. Slice the very tops of the garlic bulb off and wrap in foil. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the garlic is soft and sweet. Trim and thinly slice the zucchini and squash. (If squash is hard to find just omit and use a little more zucchini – I like the contrast of the yellow skin.) Place in a baking tray (I lined mine with baking paper) and toss in a little olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a generous grind of pepper (you may want to omit pepper if making for kids). Roast in middle shelf of the oven for about 30-45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until soft and wilting but not falling apart.

When the top and sides of the polenta are crisp, turn out onto a pizza tray or a baking sheet and return to the over for 15-25 minutes to crisp the bottom (which will now be the top).

By now the garlic should be roasted. Cool a little and squeeze garlic bulbs from the skin. Chop finely. Also chop the sun-dried tomatoes. When the polenta is crisp all over, remove from oven and spread evenly with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Pile the zucchini over the top. Scatter the olives on the pizza and sprinkle with cheese. Return into the oven for about ten – twenty minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

* To make this dish vegan, just omit the grated cheese and sprinkle nutritional yeast over the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.

On the stereo:
DyanMU – enrici coniglio and elisa marzorati


  1. Delicious looking pizza! Pity about your zucchini incident.
    Thanks for your entry!

  2. This sounds tasty, but I know what you mean about it not tasting like pizza. I've made a quiche with a polenta crust and had a similar reaction. I think if you think of it as something else rather than a copy of pizza, it becomes a delicious dish (and Grace did decide she liked it, after all, so that's all that really counts!).

  3. That looks really tasty. I keep getting more and more curious about how to cook with polenta. Maybe I'll give this a shot.

  4. Well it sure looks delicious! I tried making a soy pizza crust one time and it was terrible... I don't really mind something with a non-bready flavor, as long as it's something to put my pizza toppings on! I've even been known to make pizza in portabello caps.

  5. Well, this certainly got my attention! I'm a big polenta fan and though I don't eat zucchini all that often, I immediately desire some. Great idea!

  6. A zucchini bike incident, I love it! Not so good for the zucchini though.

  7. Your polenta pizza looks awesome! Can't wait to make it.

  8. thanks Linda - I am looking forward to the round up

    thanks Ricki - it is hard trying to emulate a dish but not expecting it to taste that way - I think this is probably why Clotilde went down the tart route!

    thanks Romina

    thanks Mary - polenta is great comfort food and I don't think it is as scary now you can get quick cook polenta as the days when you really did need strong arms to do all that stirring! I use one of those strange spoons with a hole in it which I think makes it much easier to stir

    thanks Mrs W - I know what you mean about the pizza toppings being great - your mushroom pizzas sound great

    thanks Lisa - if you like polenta then you will love this

    thanks Lisa - I did toy with the idea of naming this post A Zucchini needs a Bicycle like a Coeliac needs Gluten

    thanks TM - glad you like the look of it - let me know how you find it!

  9. I'm glad the zucchini didn't cause a bike accident! I give you much credit for taking a bike and not a car.

    I recently made a post for "masa pizza" and it might interest you.

    Your tart looks delicious. I often make mini ones using a biscuit cutter and serve them at cocktail parties.

  10. This looks so, so good, Johanna. And the ease of using a springform pan for the crust completely wins me over. I'd have a wedge of this for breakfast.

  11. This sounds really interesting. I have never had a pizza with a polenta base before. I have some polenta in the cupboard so I may have to give it a go this weekend.

  12. thanks LisaRene - the masa pizzas sound great - masa harina (???) is not something I have come across but I have seem cornmeal like flour so might try with that sometime!

    thanks Susan - it would be a wonderful breakfast - and I think you could do it quite easily with a cake tin that wasn't springform

    thanks Katie - I'd be interested to see how you go with it as I would still like to experiment further with this

  13. Yum! well done for being the only entrant who could steer themselves away from sugar! those flavours sound amazing, zucchini and polenta - classic.

    x x x

  14. thanks Naomi - I am particularly interested in savoury as my little niece will not try any sweet food I cook for her but seems to be willing to try savoury stuff!


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