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Cheesy Polenta with Squash and Herbs (Gluten Free)

Cheesy Polenta with Squash and Herbs (Gluten Free) | The Picky Eater

This gluten free polenta recipe allows you to enjoy creamy and cheesy polenta without any of the guilt! Served with squash, corn and fresh herbs, this dish is easy, fresh, tasty and full of flavor.

Polenta is one of my favorite comforting dishes to eat all year round. Depending on the season, I like to change up the toppings: fresh asparagus in the spring and summer, squashes and root veggies in the fall and winter – but the base recipe always stays the same. The traditional version of polenta is made with tons of butter, cheese and sometimes even cream – which makes it super rich and indulgent – but also not the best thing to eat on a regular basis. My version of cheesy polenta has all of the decadence of the original version with none of the guilt! There’s just something about this dish that has an air of elegance and fancy, like you’ve spent hours on it in the kitchen, even though it literally takes 20 minutes to make. And I promise: this gluten free polenta will be creamy, buttery and delicious – just like the restaurant version but totally guilt-free!

Recipe Ingredients and Notes

Ingredients for making Corn and Goat Cheese Polenta with Garlicky Summer Squash
  • Polenta: Instant polenta will save you a ton of time in the kitchen and still tastes great!
  • Cheese: I used goat cheese for this recipe, but you could use any cheese you enjoy. Pecorino romano, parmesan, cheddar would all taste great in this gluten free polenta.
  • Veggies: I chose squash and corn – since they are mild in flavor, go great with cheesy polenta and are kid friendly. But you can choose any veggies you like! Roasted carrots, sauteed mushrooms, other types of squash, sweet potatoes, or asparagus would all go great with this recipe.

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1: Bring 1 quart of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to boil in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in polenta; continue to cook, whisking frequently until polenta thickens to a soft, but not soupy consistency. Keep warm, adding water and stirring frequently to keep polenta soft. When the polenta is almost ready, stir in the milk. This will literally take you 3 minutes (and then the polenta is ready!).

gluten free polenta cooking in a pot

Step 2: Cut the squash into thin rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Then cut the corn kernels off the cob. I like to hold the ear of corn vertically in a large bowl and then run my knife down the sides. That way the little kernels don’t go sprinkling all over my kitchen floor as I cut the corn off the cob! Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and yellow squash; sauté until squash is soft but still holds its shape, about 5 minutes.

zucchini sauteeing in a pan

Step 3: Add corn, crushed red pepper, and garlic; sauté lightly to cook. Stir in basil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste.

zucchini and corn sauteeing in a pan

Step 4: Stir in about 1 oz goat cheese into the polenta right before you serve it. To serve: Pour 1 ladle-full of polenta into a plate, top with a portion of the squash mixture. Top with about 1/2-1 oz crumbled goat cheese per serving.

gluten free cheesy polenta topped with zucchini, corn and herbs, served on a white plate

What Makes This Cheesy Polenta Healthy?

Typically, I wouldn’t say that traditional goat cheese polenta is healthy. But thanks to a few healthy swaps, this recipe is both delicious and nutritious for you! Here’s what makes this cheesy polenta healthy:

  • Vitamins and Minerals: Thanks to the veggies and herbs, this dish is rich in Folate, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium!
  • High in Protein: Thanks to the cheese and other plant based ingredients, this recipe has over 10 grams of protein per serving! Not bad for a hearty side dish or a light main!
  • Low Calorie: You can enjoy one giant portion of gluten free polenta for just 270 calories.

Will Kids Enjoy This Gluten Free Cheesy Polenta?

Polenta is super mild in flavor, and the goat cheese just adds extra creaminess which kids will love. If your kids are pickier eaters and don’t like veggies, I recommend either chopping them up super fine so they “disappear” into the polenta!

gluten free cheesy polenta topped with zucchini, corn and herbs, served on a white plate

Recipe FAQs

What is Polenta?

Polenta is made from yellow corn that is ground into cornmeal, and is commonly used in Italian cooking. It is a whole grain that is low in calories and gluten free.

Can This Cheesy Polenta recipe be made ahead of time?

Absolutely! You can make this the day before and it will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat polenta, add a little bit of water or milk to thin it out until you achieve the right consistency, and then heat it gently using the stove or microwave.

What Type of Cornmeal Should You Use for Gluten Free Polenta?

There are a few different types of cornmeal you can use for this recipe: 1) Instant Polenta: The easiest to use, and the quickest to make. It’s typically either finely ground cornmeal or pre-cooked polenta that has been dried and packaged. 2) Stone ground cornmeal: This will give you the most texture in your polenta as it’s the least ground up and refined. Think of it as the same as steel cut oats vs. quick oats. It has a very rich corn flavor. 3) Coarse cornmeal: This is similar to stoneground as it has a lot of texture and isn’t finely ground. 4) Medium ground cornmeal: Besides instant cornmeal, this will give you the smoothest polenta because it is much more finely ground.

Is Polenta Gluten Free?

Yes! Polenta is made from cornmeal which is a gluten free grain. However, similar to oats (which is also a gluten free grain), cornmeal is often processed in facilities that process wheat and other gluten-rich grains. So just make sure the polenta you use is certified gluten free.

Top Tips For Making Cheesy Polenta

  • If you choose to use instant polenta, this recipe will take the least amount of time. But you can use one of the other polenta options (coarse, medium, stone ground) and it will work just as well!
  • Keep stirring the polenta when cooking to keep it soft.
  • Polenta can be made ahead of time and reheated, simply add 1/4-1/2 cup of water, cover, and reheat in the microwave or on a low heat.
  • To cut the corn easily without having corn kernels fly everywhere, use two bowls: one large and one small. Put the small bowl upside down in the large bowl. Then stand the corn on top of the smaller bowl and use a sharp knife to slice down along the cob.
  • Feel free to substitute the veggies and cheese with your favorites to change up this recipe!
gluten free cheesy polenta topped with zucchini, corn and herbs, served on a white plate

Check Out These Other Italian Inspired Recipes!

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Gluten Free Cheesy Polenta with Squash and Herbs

This gluten free polenta recipe allows you to enjoy creamy and cheesy polenta without any of the guilt! Served with squash, corn and fresh herbs, this dish is easy, fresh, tasty and full of flavor.

Prep Time15 mins Cook Time15 mins Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course Cuisine: American, Italian

Servings: 4 servings Calories: 273.4kcal

  • Bring 1 quart of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to boil in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in polenta; continue to cook, whisking frequently until polenta thickens to a soft, but not soupy consistency. Keep warm, adding water and stirring frequently to keep polenta soft. When the polenta is almost ready, stir in the milk. This will literally take you 3 minutes (and then the polenta is ready!).
  • Cut all your veggies, and cut the corn kernels off the cob. I like to hold the ear of corn vertically in a large bowl and then run my knife down the sides. That way the little kernels don’t go sprinkling all over my kitchen floor as I cut the corn off the cob.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and yellow squash; sauté until squash is soft but still holds its shape, about 5 minutes. Add corn, crushed red pepper, and garlic; sauté to lightly cook. Stir in basil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir in about 1 oz goat cheese into the polenta right before you serve it. To serve: Pour 1 ladle-full of polenta into a plate, top with a portion of the squash mixture. Top with about 1/2-1 oz crumbled goat cheese per serving.

Top Tips For Making Cheesy Polenta

  • If you choose to use instant polenta, this recipe will take the least amount of time. But you can use one of the other polenta options (coarse, medium, stone ground) and it will work just as well!
  • Keep stirring the polenta when cooking to keep it soft.
  • Polenta can be made ahead of time and reheated, simply add 1/4-1/2 cup of water, cover, and reheat in the microwave or on a low heat.
  • To cut the corn easily without having corn kernels fly everywhere, use two bowls: one large and one small. Put the small bowl upside down in the large bowl. Then stand the corn on top of the smaller bowl and use a sharp knife to slice down along the cob.
  • Feel free to substitute the veggies and cheese with your favorites to change up this recipe!

Calories: 273.4kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 10.9g | Fat: 8g | Sodium: 113.2mg | Fiber: 3.8g | Sugar: 5.7g

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