Pesto Polenta Bowls with Eggs and Spinach
Hey, November! The month when cozy bowl food is truly LIFE. These pesto polenta bowls are on heavy rotation in my house because simple and satisfying are where it's at. And any excuse to eat this dairy-free pesto I take. I've been swapping out the walnuts for pumpkin seeds (because pumpkin all day, every day amiright?), but any nut or seed will work.
And don't limit yourself to just this recipe! Once you get the whole polenta thing down (it's way easier than you think; all the deets below), experiment with other sauces, proteins, and veggies. Or go the purest (read: fastest) route: stir in a little grassfed butter and top with parmesan (and maybe serve a salad on the side ;).
So what's polenta, anyway?
In short, it's a cornmeal porridge from Northern Italy. And it's the perfect vehicle for all the things (imo). Making polenta couldn't be easier, but choosing which brand and variety to buy can be confusing; there are a lot of options out there. I try to stay away from pre-cooked polenta or instant (aka quick-cooking) polenta because it tends to have less flavor. Instead, look for cornmeal, corn grits, or polenta that's been medium or coarsely ground.
Be aware that the package might not even say "polenta," which is totally fine as long as the only ingredient is corn. My personal favorite is Bob's Red Mill Organic Corn Grits, which I've found at Whole Foods Market and the health food sections of well-stocked grocery stores (and on Amazon, of course).
The type of liquid you use to cook polenta is up to you; milk, water, or chicken stock are some common favorites. I like to use chicken stock because it's more flavorful than water, but not as heavy as milk (plus, I like to mix in a little butter at the end ;).
Let's talk meal prep.
By now you know I'm kinda meal prep obsessed. Meaning, I rarely cook anything that I can't eat again later in the week because time is money, you know? These pesto polenta bowls are totally meal-preppable with one caveat; the polenta will harden in the fridge. Even though it will taste just as good reheated, it will become a different consistency that isn't for everyone. I'm weird, so I like it but if you don't, you could reheat the polenta using this method or (my personal favorite) try this idea: Once cooked, spread the warm polenta evenly into a greased container so that it's about 1-inch in height.
Store the pesto, eggs, and cooked spinach separately in the fridge. When ready to eat, cut the polenta into 1-inch squares and remove from the container. Lightly fry the squares in a bit of olive oil over medium heat, allowing the squares to cook on each side until they easily come off the pan without sticking (patience!). Remove from heat and drizzle with the pesto and serve with the eggs and cooked spinach.
Pesto Polenta Bowls with Eggs and Spinach
- 1 cup dry polenta corn grits (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup dairy-free pesto
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to thin, optional
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- big pinch of salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 lb (16-oz) baby spinach
- 8 eggs
- 8 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Make the polenta. Cook according to package instructions. In general, you want a ratio of 4:1 water to polenta and be sure to stir every 5 minutes or so until thick and creamy.
- Thin the dairy-free pesto. While the polenta is cooking, thin the pesto in a small bowl with a little bit of olive oil.
- Sauté the spinach. Heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the baby spinach and cook, stirring frequently, turning down the heat if needed. Once wilted, set the spinach aside and wipe out the pan.
- Make the eggs. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan and cook the eggs sunny-side up or any style you prefer.
- Assemble the bowls. Divide the cooked polenta between four bowls (or follow storage and reheating instructions in the post). Top each bowl with a swirl of pesto, 1/4th of the cooked spinach, and two of the cooked eggs. Garnish with a couple of sun-dried tomato slices.
I recommend staying away from pre-cooked polenta or instant (aka quick-cooking) polenta because it tends to have less flavor. Instead, look for cornmeal, corn grits, or polenta that's been medium or coarsely ground. Be aware that the package might not even say "polenta," which is totally fine as long as the only ingredient is corn. My favorite? Bob's Red Mill Organic Corn Grits.