When people choose, or are instructed by their doctor/nutritionist, to start following a gluten free diet, it's common for them to feel like all of their favorite foods are being taken away from them -- pizza, pasta, sandwiches, muffins, cereal, cookies, beer, etc. While I completely understand how it can feel this way at first, I love providing my clients, friends, family, etc. with recipes that are delicious and naturally gluten free, as well as surprising them with ways to make their favorite gluten bomb foods sans gluten! This recipe is a perfect example of one of those surprises! Gluten free pizza? YES. While there are a few ways to make gluten free pizza crust, using polenta is definitely in the top three. It's pretty much fool-proof and hardly takes any time or effort. The nature of polenta is that it firms up and becomes quite dense when cooked. This is perfect for our pizza-crust purpose as the goal is to be able to cut it and hold your slice with your hand without it falling apart on you. While it looks like there is a lot to do in this recipe, it's really quite simple. If you're proficient at multi-tasking, you could have your pizza on the table in 45 minutes!
Polenta Crust Pizza with Pesto Sauce
- 1 1/3 cups gluten-free medium-grind cornmeal (polenta)
- 4 cups water
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1/3 - ½ cup olive oil
- handful of walnuts or pine nuts
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 6 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
- Roasted garlic
- Cherry tomatoes
- Caramelized onions
- Bell peppers
- Cheese of your choice
- Meat of your choice
In a microwave-safe bowl, mix 4 cups water, polenta, and 1 3/4 teaspoons salt. Place in the microwave and cook at the high setting for 5 minutes. Stir thoroughly, then return to the microwave and cook at the high setting for 5 more minutes. Stir well. Return to the microwave and cook at the high setting until very thick, about 5 minutes longer. Stir again, and then mix in the 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and a generous amount of pepper.
While your crust is nuking, make the pesto. [Note: if you want to make this recipe vegan, you can use traditional tomato-based pizza sauce instead of pesto, or just omit the cheese in the pesto recipe, and don't use cheese as a topping]. Wash the basil leaves and spinach and drain well. Put the basil, spinach, oil, nuts, garlic, pepper and salt in a food processor. Blend to a paste, but not smooth. It should have a slightly coarse texture. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cheese.
Brush a large pizza pan (I just used a rimmed cookie sheet) generously with olive oil. (Do not line the pan with parchment, or the crust will not gain the desired texture.) Spread the polenta mixture out on the pan in a circle about 1/3 inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter, building up the edges slightly. I used the "mouth" of a large mixing bowl to form the crust into a more perfect circle. Obviously not an exact science here - just do your best to spread it evenly. Also, your pizza doesn't have to be a circle; you could make it into a square or rectangle to fit your cookie sheet, if that's easier.
To bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spread pesto over the polenta crust, leaving a border, then layer on your choice of toppings. I have made this recipe several times, but my favorite combination of toppings is: mushrooms, bell peppers, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes (as pictured above).
Bake the pizza until it is beginning to brown in spots, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes to set up. Cut into 8 slices and serve!
Easier than rolling homemade pizza dough...and easier on your gut too! Hope you enjoy!