Crispy polenta cakes with roasted eggplant and our easy romesco sauce is the perfect plant-based 30-minute weeknight dinner. Loaded with flavor, filling, and gorgeous to look at with all its bright colors. We use a premade tube of polenta to make quick work of the cakes with our tried and true eggplant recipe and our no-cook easy romesco sauce that comes together in less than 5 minutes.
Please read the entire post for tips and tricks to ensure a perfect recipe every time. And don't forget to tag @peelwithzeal on Instagram so we can admire your creation!
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I love polenta but don't like the heavy dairy laden creamy versions, nor do I always have the time and patience to make it. That is why crispy polenta cakes are my go to polenta recipe.
We are eating more plant-based meals than ever before. But prepping all the vegetables and cooking grains can take time. This recipe allows you to work on the next step while one item is cooking which means from start to finish you are done in less than 30 minutes. Which, if I am being honest, is about all the patience I have for weeknight dinner.
This recipe relies on just a few simple whole food ingredients but there are a plethora of substitution options so you can easily make your own variations.
- Eggplant- You just need one eggplant for this recipe. You can also try it with our roasted zucchini or do both to stretch the meal from four servings to six.
- Polenta- This recipe relies on using one precooked tube of polenta. This type of polenta is found in either the Italian section or near the rice and dried grain area of the supermarket. There are also a few brands that are refrigerated but those tend to contain dairy. You can also use leftover polenta that has been
- Romesco Sauce- A smokey Spanish sauce using pantry staples including roasted red peppers, almonds, tomato paste, and paprika. In a pinch, you could substitute marinara sauce or mild salsa.
- Arugula- You can use arugula or any fresh green you like. Like spinach or even microgreens. To stretch the dish into more servings you can increase the greens and saute them following our sauteed greens recipe.
Start by salting your sliced eggplant and letting it rest for 10 minutes. While the eggplant is resting make your romesco sauce and slice your polenta into rounds.
Bake the eggplant 15 to 20 minutes at 400F degrees. While the eggplant is roasting fry your polenta. Depending on the brand, sometimes it gets brown and toasty. Other times it will turn golden. Check the texture of the polenta cakes. They should have a nice crispy crust.
Everything will come together at the same time. For serving, layer the polenta cakes and eggplant on a platter. Top with the romesco sauce and your greens.
🥘Tips and Tricks
- Chill your tube of polenta to make slicing easier.
- Double-check the polenta tube to ensure it is dairy-free.
- Don't over-salt your eggplant. We want to extract some excess water to quicken the cooking but not dry it out.
- Remember to toast the almonds for the romesco sauce. It really does make a difference.
- Drizzle a bit of high-quality olive oil over the arugula. You can even add a squeeze of lemon.
🥗More Plant-Based Recipes
Here are a few more of favorite plant-based dinner recipes, all ready in 30 minutes or less.
Polenta Cakes with Eggplant and Romesco
- 1 medium eggplant
- 18 oz tube of prepared polenta
- 2 cups arugula
- ¼ cup olive oil divided
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 10 oz jar roasted red peppers drained
- ½ cup sliced almonds lightly toasted
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ cup parsley roughly chopped
- pinch cayenne pepper
- Cut off ends of eggplant and slice into ⅓ inch rounds. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Lay the eggplant on the rack. Liberally sprinkle each side of the steaks with the salt and let the eggplant sit for 10 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cool water and thoroughly pat dry with a towel.
- Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the eggplant and single layer on the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush both sides lightly with olive oil and a light sprinkle of black pepper.
- Roast the eggplant in the oven for 10 minutes. Flip and roast for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
- While the eggplant is cooking, cut the polenta tube into 12 even rounds, season with black pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed saute pan. In batches, sear the polenta rounds until the polenta is golden brown on each side, about 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter.
- Place all ingredients into a blender. Process on medium-high until mixture is smooth but grainy. Transfer to a small pan and heat on low heat until warmed through.
- Layer the eggplant and polenta on a platter. Topped with the romesco sauce and arugula.
- Polenta cakes can be made in advance and reheated in a frying pan.
- Leftovers will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for 3 to 5 days.