Monday, June 08, 2015

Polenta Rounds with Marinara and Pesto, Navy Beans with Spinach (No Added Fat)

I was thinking of making a pesto pizza today and started making a bean side dish, but then saw a tube of polenta in my cabinets, and decided to try cooking a polenta main dish instead of the pizza. I thought I'd start with a simple experiment of cooking polenta rounds with marinara and onion; surely a minute of high pressure cooking would be enough but I thought I'd try 2 minutes to really embed the tomato flavor into the polenta. Here is what I did:

  • 1 cup navy beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1/2" cubes (one medium potato)
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • Enough water to just cover the potato and beans (maybe 3/4 cup?)
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach (frozen or fresh; I used frozen)
  • 3T nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2t lime (or lemon) juice
  • 500g (just over a pound) of prepared polenta cut into 3/4" discs (the polenta I used came as an elliptical cylinder maybe 2" on the longer side and maybe 1 3/4" on the shorter side, but any roughly similar dimensions should be fine)
  • 1 cup 3/8" onion cubes (about 1/2 of a medium Vidalia onion that I used)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cob of corn
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce (as I described last week)
  • (Optional) 1/8 t garlic powder

  1. I put the beans, potato, bouillon cube, and water in my Instant Pot pressure cooker, and cooked on high pressure for 35m. I should have soaked the beans but came up with this idea as I was formulating dinner.
  2. I needed the pressure cooker for the polenta (I soon hope to have two pressure cookers), so didn't wait long before I gently let out the pressure and opened the pot.
  3. I mixed in the spinach, nutritional yeast, salt, and lime juice, and set aside, covered, so that the spinach would defrost and heat up by the time I served (5m was really all that was needed for the spinach to heat).
  4. Into the empty Instant Pot, I put the onion, and then the polenta slices and, finally, the marinara sauce.
  5. I cooked for 2 minutes under high pressure.
  6. While the polenta was cooking, I roasted the corn by removing the leaves and silk and flame roasting over my gas range, then using a knife to strip the kernels; I ended up with about a cup.
  7. When the pressure cooker was done, I let it sit for a few minutes, slowly let out the remaining pressure, and carefully opened the pot.
  8. I mixed in the corn kernels, salt, pesto sauce, and garlic powder, and served.


The polenta was excellent! It had a lot of flavor - and was so easy with no worry about sticking to the pot. The pesto was just the right quantity and contributed enough flavor without "taking over" the dish. Adding the corn kernels was a nice touch in both taste and texture. The beans were fine but could have been cooked longer. My wife and daughter seemed to enjoy them, but I was a little disappointed.

Ideas for the future

I am so glad that pressure cooking prepared polenta was so easy and tasty. I need to explore this further - I'll bet artichoke hearts would go great in such a dish, as well as roasted garlic. Capers could add a nice touch. I've made dishes like stacked crispy seitan with polenta rounds, and should try to do a pressure-cooked oil-free version.

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