Vegan Cacio E Pepe Polenta With Broccolini, Basil, Lemon & Garlic Chips

By Carol Dudar

Photos By Above The Salt


Come in from the chilly weather and warm up with a hearty vegan polenta.

As polenta is made from corn, it’s gluten-free. Semolina, on the other hand, is coarsely ground high-gluten durum wheat used to make pasta, cakes, and breads.

Polenta is a north Italian dish made of coarsely ground corn.

Freshly cooked, polenta is soft and creamy, like porridge or mush, and makes a terrific bed for sauces. It’s a good gluten-free substitute for just about any dish that calls for pasta. When polenta cools, it firms up enough to be sliced and fried or layered like pasta sheets.

Polenta is not just used in savory dishes, it is also great for cakes. Gluten-free polenta cake often contains almond flour or finely ground almonds.

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(Serves 4)


  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry polenta–not instant
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 2 cups (500ml) veg stock
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) kosher salt
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) fresh black pepper
  • 4 tbsp (60 ml) unsalted butter or good quality extra virgin olive oil


  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) vegetable stock


  • 1 bunch of broccolini
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) meyer lemon rind or regular lemon rind, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt
  • fresh black pepper


  • Fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) toasted pine nuts
  • Optional: ½ cup (125 ml) grated parmesan, divided
  • More freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring water, stock, bay leaves, thyme & salt, and black pepper to a boil, whisk in the polenta in a slow steady stream and turn down heat to a simmer. Keep stirring and simmer for 15-20 min until thick and creamy.
  2. Add the 4 tbsp of butter (or olive oil) and stir until well combined.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a medium pan over medium high heat, add the broccolini.  
  4. Char the broccolini in the pan, turning it frequently to give a uniform charring. 
  5. Remove the broccolini from the pan, turn heat down to medium, add the garlic slices, and lemon rind.
  6. Saute until the garlic is golden brown and crispy as well the lemon is soft and tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Whisk the 3 tbsp of vegetable stock and 2 tbsp olive oil together, and set aside for finishing the dish.
  8. Divide the polenta into four servings.
  9. The polenta will cool and thicken quickly so working quickly is suggested.
  10. Drizzle the stock and olive oil mixture over the served portions of polenta, before topping with the sauteed vegetables, basil leaves and parmesan if using.

Publisher’s Note: Carol Dudar is a Toronto based recipe developer and food stylist.

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