Pesto Rosso Polenta Bites
Pesto doesn't have to be green! While traditional basil pesto is popular, it can be difficult to pair with the right wine (Vermentino is our recommendation). This sun-dried tomato pesto is loaded with umami--that rich, almost meaty flavor that begs for red wine. It also uses blanched almonds instead of pine nuts, which is tolerated better by many who have nut allergies.While it's a great spread for crackers, crostini, or vegetables or a dressing for pasta, we pair Pesto Rosso with polenta. If you're at home, drop a dollop on a bowl of creamy polenta. If entertaining (or just nibbling), drop it on small, toasted squares of polenta. House made polenta is tastiest, but many of the prepared polenta "tubes" on the market are good, too, if you're pressed for time.
Servings: 8 appetizer portions
- Food Processor
- Baking Sheet
- Cooling Rack
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, dry packed or in oil You may need more or less olive oil depending on your selection.
- 1/3 cup blanched almonds
- 4 cloves roasted garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
- 3/4-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 16 oz prepared polenta, sliced into 1/2" rounds or 1-1/2" squares
- parsley or basil, chopped (for garnish)
- Gently toast almonds in a dry frying pan over medium heat until barely browning. Spread on paper towels or parchment paper and cool.
- Place all ingredients and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and process until evenly chopped. Stop the processor and scrape once or twice. Add additional oil if needed to reach a spreadable consistency.
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours; best overnight or up to 7 days.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees.
- Brush each polenta slice with olive oil and transfer to a baking sheet; use parchment paper on the sheet if you have it to speed cleanup and minimize any chance of sticking
- Bake the polenta for 15 minutes or until just browning.
- Remove slice to cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
- Remove pesto from refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature.
- Transfer polenta slices to a serving plate. Drop a dollop of pesto on each and serve at room temperature.
- Garnish with chopped parsley or basil.
Both dry-and oil-packed sun-dried can be used. Just drain the oil-packed version; you may need less oil to reach a spreadable consistency. Other toasted nuts can be used—pine nuts, walnuts—you name it. Just toast them lightly before using. Polenta can be made with a standard recipe and set as a sheet before slicing. Alternately, use a prepared polenta; Ancient Harvest offers 18 oz. rolls that are quite good. Roasted garlic is a kitchen staple for us; we substitute roasted garlic for raw in most of our uncooked spreads and appetizers for a mellower, richer garlic flavor. To roast, cut the top tip off a head of garlic, and place it in a shallow oven-roof dish. Drizzle olive oil in the cut section, and bake at 350 degrees until cloves are soft and browning gently. Refrigerate. In a pinch, cut the garlic head as above, drizzle with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until soft.