'Clean Start': Polenta Pizzas with Kale, Chard, and Parsley Pesto Recipe

'Clean Start': Polenta Pizzas with Kale, Chard, and Parsley Pesto Recipe

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

These Polenta Pizzas from Clean Start by Terry Walters don't have all that much to do with their doughy, cheesy namesake, but considering it's about a thousand times better than any vegan, gluten-free version I've ever tried, I'm not going to argue about semantics.

The 'pizza' begins with an herbed polenta dough that's formed in a shallow fluted tart pan and baked until crisp. Walters' recipe gives you a choice of two toppings—kale and maitake mushrooms and chard with a parsley-walnut pesto. Both toppings include briefly sautéed dark, leafy greens, full of lots of great for you stuff like vitamins and minerals that don't usually find make their way onto the top of a pizza. The kale and maitakes are layered on top of tomatoey pizza sauce giving the polenta pizza a little bit of sweetness and maybe a touch of plain old pizza flavor when the mushrooms mingle with the sauce. The second topping combo was even more exciting due to a very tasty walnut parsley pesto that lends a great nuttiness and a bright acidity. And the best part about these cornmeal pies? Just like real pizza, this polenta version can be enjoyed cold, straight out the fridge .

We have two (2) copies of Clean Start to give away this week.

Adapted from Clean Start by Terry Walters. Copyright © 2010. Published by Sterling Epicure. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

  • Yield:4 to 6


  • For the polenta pizza crust:
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 11/4 cups polenta
  • For the kale and maitake mushroom topping:
  • 1 large leek, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 maitake mushrooms
  • 1 bunch kale, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pasta sauce
  • For the chard and parsley pesto topping:
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parsley Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)
  • For the parsley walnut pesto:
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 11/2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt


  1. 1.

    For the crust, over high heat, bring stock to boil. Reduce heat to medium and add salt, basil, oregano, parsley, pepper and olive oil. Whisking continuously, pour in polenta and continue whisking for 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and thick. Pour into two 11-inch tart pans and spread evenly over bottom of each pan. Cool slightly and then refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

  2. 2.

    Preheat oven to 350°F and place pizza stone or baking sheet on middle rack. Remove polenta from refrigerator, sprinkle pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal, transfer polenta to stone or baking sheet and bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

  3. 3.

    For kale pizza, place large skillet over medium heat and sauté leek in 11/2 tablespoons olive oil for 3 minutes. Add mirin and sauté 2 minutes longer. Crumble maitake mushrooms, add to pan and sauté 5 minutes or until soft. Fold in kale and sauté 3 minutes longer. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, season to taste with salt and black pepper and remove from heat.

  4. 4.

    For chard pizza, sauté onion and garlic in oil until soft, following the directions for the kale topping. Add chard, sauté 1 minute, remove from heat, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  5. 5.

    For the parsley walnut pesto, with food processor running, drop in garlic and process until minced. Turn off processor, scrape down sides and add walnuts, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice. Process to mince all ingredients and combine. Season to taste with salt and thin with extra olive oil to achieve desired consistency. Refrigerate or freeze in airtight container until ready to use.

  6. 6.

    Spread pasta sauce or parsley pesto evenly over crust, leaving a 1/2-inch edge. Top with kale or chard mixture and return to oven to bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cut with pizza wheel and serve.