Cannellini Bean Polenta Squares are a festive (and completely vegan) appetizer for the holidays. Guests will love this delicious bite of polenta (Italian corn grits) smothered in roasted red pepper bean spread.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by USA Pulses and Pulse Canada. (View more bean, pea, lentil, and chickpea recipes.)
The holidays are the perfect excuse to go all-out in the kitchen. This year, I decided to finally try my hand at homemade polenta. True, the Italian staple requires some stirring—and near-complete restraint from multitasking, but in a world where we’re always pressured to do more, the simple act of polenta-making can actually be pretty comforting.
Even more comfy-cozy is the zesty bean spread that goes on top. It’s packed with satisfying protein and fiber from cannellini beans (a member of the affordable and environmentally-sustainable pulse family), and brimming with Mediterranean flavors from sun-dried tomato, lemon, garlic, basil, and oregano.
These polenta squares are bite-size and perfect for a party, but the real benefit is that they’ll help you slow down, forget about your phone, and create something special in the kitchen this holiday season.
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Cannellini Bean Polenta Squares are a festive (and completely vegan) appetizer for the holidays and beyond.
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal such as Bob’s Red Mill Italian Corn Grits
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cannellini beans cooked
- ½ cup walnuts
- ⅓ cup roasted red peppers jarred in oil
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon basil dried
- 1 teaspoon oregano dried
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup cannellini beans cooked
- 2-3 teaspoons thyme fresh
Bring broth to a boil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Gradually add cornmeal to the pot while whisking constantly. Add salt, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and continue to whisk to prevent polenta from sticking to the sides or bottom of the pot. After a few minutes (once mixture has thickened and it’s difficult to stir with the whisk), switch to a wooden spoon, and continue to stir. Cook and stir until the polenta is cooked (the texture will look similar to mashed potatoes), about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Line a 10 by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease the pan with oil), and use a spatula to spread the polenta evenly over the baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for about three hours (or overnight).
Add cannellini beans, walnuts, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon, olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to a food-processor bowl. Process on high until the mixture is pureed smooth. If the spread is too thick, add another tablespoon of olive oil and pulse again to mix. Set aside (or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve).
Preheat your broiler (or toaster oven) and cut the polenta into 24 squares. Spread squares on baking sheet and broil (or toast) until hot, 5-8 minutes. Remove polenta squares from the oven, and top with the roasted red pepper spread, cooked cannellini beans, and fresh thyme leaves. Enjoy!
Polenta and spread can be made up to three days in advance and assembled the day of. Recipe adapted from the Food52 Vegan cookbook.