These Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites are a beautiful appetizer to serve at a holiday party.
I’ve been making this appetizer for my holiday parties for eight years now. It’s never one that I leave off the menu because this is always a very popular appetizer. For one thing, it’s so darn pretty. It looks so very festive with the red and the green. And it’s really a very unique appetizer that tends to catch everyone’s eye.
Of all the delicious appetizers I serve at my parties, these Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites are always the one to get the most compliments. People love them! They also love my Vodka Party Punch– which is always on my menu too!
How do you make Polenta?
Making the polenta rounds couldn’t be easier. Hot milk is infused with herbs and garlic. Then the herbs and garlic are fished out and discarded. The infused milk is mixed with the polenta… which is cooked for several minutes until it gets really thick. It’s then spread evenly into a pan and cooled.
Once cooled, the polenta becomes firm. Use a 1-inch round to punch out small bite-sized polenta rounds If you don’t have a 1-inch round cutter, you can certainly use something similar. Refrigerate the polenta rounds until you’re ready to continue the recipe (or you can continue with the next step).
Fry the polenta rounds in a little oil to lightly brown both sides (make ahead tip: you can make the fried polenta rounds ahead of time. When you’re ready to assemble, you’ll just warm them again briefly- or at least bring them to room temperature.)
How do you make Pesto for this recipe?
A simple pesto is made from fresh basil, pistachios, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. (Time saving tip: if you want to use purchased pesto as a quickie sub, that would be ok, too.)
To assemble this appetizer, you’ll need the sauteed polenta rounds, pesto, chunks of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and some chopped pistachios. If you’d rather leave out the cheese or pistachios, that’s perfectly okay. Some people are allergic to nuts, and some people are dairy free.
How to assemble Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites:
You can serve these warm or at room temperature. Add a little pesto to the center of the sauteed polenta.
Top with a piece of sundried tomato.
Add pistachios. Add cheese, if you’d like.
And they’re ready to serve! See? Festive and delicious! These Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites are a great make-ahead appetizer recipe for the holidays (see recipe for details). And they also just happen to be naturally gluten-free!
If you’re looking for more recipes to add to your holiday party table, you might like to try my Cranberry Caramelized Onion Cheese Spread or this Blue Cheese Ball. Spinach Palmiers, Margarita Shrimp Bites and Baked Brie Bites are fun holiday recipes too!
Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites
- 2⅔ cups whole milk
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 clove garlic, peeled & crushed
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
- ⅓ cup olive oil (more or less, for frying)
- ½ cup (packed) fresh basil
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- ⅓ cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil (drained & cut into small pieces)
- chopped pistachios, optional
- sea salt
PREPARE THE POLENTA:
- Lightly oil a 13x9-inch baking pan. Bring the first 4 ingredients to simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat; simmer 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the herbs and garlic. Whisk in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream; return to boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until the polenta is very thick, whisking often, about 10 minutes. Turn polenta out into prepared pan; spread to ½-inch thick layer- don't worry about making it perfect- just spread it out as even as you can. Let it cool completely. When the polenta is cool, use a 1 to a 1 ½-inch round cutter to cut out 30 polenta rounds (or as many as you can).
PREPARE THE PESTO:
- Place the basil, pistachios and cheese in a mini processor Blend to create a coarse puree. Add olive oil and blend until pesto is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
COOK THE POLENTA:
- Pour about ⅓ cup olive oil into a large nonstick skillet to coat the bottom; heat over medium-high heat. Saute the polenta rounds until they are lightly browned, about 1 minute on each side; transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Top each polenta round with a small amount of pesto, a chunk of goat cheese and sundried tomato. Add a few chopped pistachios too, if you'd like. Finish them with a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- If you want to leave off the cheese, you can certainly do so.
- I like to use Bob's Red Mill brand Corn Grits (Polenta).
- MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Prepare the polenta rounds as described in step 1 up to two days ahead; cover and chill.
- MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare the pesto up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill. For a quick & easy sub- use store bought pesto in place of the homemade.
- MAKE AHEAD TIP: Fry the polenta rounds up to 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature, then re-warm in 375 degree oven for 5 minutes before adding toppings and serving.