Skillet Cinnamon Sugar Peach Upside Down Cake.
Cherry Tomato Pesto Polenta with Fried Halloumi…a delicious bowl of late summer comfort food. This simple creamy pesto polenta is made in under 30 minutes, uses just one skillet and one pot, and is a great way to use up those garden herbs and summer tomatoes. The polenta is creamy, perfectly buttery, and swirled with basil pesto and fresh chives. The blistered cherry tomatoes are pan-roasted until saucy and jammy. And that halloumi cheese is pan-fried until crispy and melty. When spooned over bowls of creamy polenta, it makes for a simple and delicious dinner that’s great for any night of the week.
Leave it to me to find a way to serve you all a giant bowl of polenta, tomatoes, and cheese, and call it dinner. This is one hundred percent, my kind of summer meal. It’s easy, it’s creamy, it has pan-roasted cherry tomatoes, so many fresh herbs, and then to finish it all off?
Pan fried halloumi cheese.
It’s not a traditional meal by any means, but it sure is delicious. And I am not going to lie, as I sit here typing away, it’s late on Tuesday night and this bowl of polenta is currently the only thing I want to be making for dinner…because yes, I love a late-night meal.
Fun fact? The reason I started cooking way back when I was twelve or thirteen was to help my dad get dinner on the table before ten o’clock. Mom always did the baking and dad always did dinner, but my dad also worked the typical nine to five, then he’d go to the gym after work. Some nights he wouldn’t get home until eight or so in the evening, so this meant two things. Most nights we have cookies on the table before dinner was even started (not a bad thing) and dinner was a bit of an afterthought and always on the later end. And with five mouths to feed? A little chaotic too.
At some point I decided to pitch in and taught myself how to cook…and I guess you could say the rest is history.
But the ironic thing about this story? I used to hate that we ate dinner so late, but now I prefer eating a later dinner once all my work is done and I can feel relaxed. Funny how things like that happen, huh?
Anyway, just thought I would share a little story. Back to the polenta now.
Here is how I do it. Start out by making a fast batch of quick-cooking polenta. I like to use Bob’s Red Mill quick-cooking polenta. Simply boil water, whisk in the polenta, and allow to cook for a few minutes until it’s thick and creamy. It’s that simple. To that creamy polenta, add a pat of butter and basil pesto. Once the polenta is looking super creamy, cover the pot and let is sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.
The most important ingredient when making polenta – the butter. If there’s one thing my mom taught me about cooking polenta is that if you really want it to taste delicious, add butter!
She’s doesn’t love to cook all that much, but she’s got polenta down to a T. Using butter creates the creamiest bowl of polenta. It’s simple, but it’s roll your eyes back good. And complete comfort.
And onto those cherry tomatoes. I love pan “roasting” sweet cherry tomatoes just until they burst and release their juices. I cook them with plenty of garlic and fresh herbs. For the herbs, I like to use a mix of fresh oregano and thyme, but you can really use any mix of herbs you enjoy most. Rosemary would be really delicious,
Cooking the tomatoes only takes a few minutes. Once they start popping and the bottoms of the tomatoes have a nice char, shake the pan a bit. Then remove from the heat and add a couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar and a handful of fresh basil.
At this point, your kitchen should be smelling amazing. With hints of garlic, balsamic, and whatever other herbs you decide to use. It’s a wonderful, summery, delicious smell!
That pan-fried Halloumi cheese. I know, know. Halloumi cheese is Greek, polenta is Italian. Yes, I am mixing cuisines. And yes, I know some of you may not be into this. But I’m all about it…IF it’s good…and it’s good!
Halloumi is a salty grilling cheese commonly used in Mediterranean cooking. It’s delicious when pan-fried and I love incorporating it into dishes like vegetarian tacos, peanut noodles, saucy curries, and extra summery salads. It adds great flavor and texture. It’s what makes this polenta really stand out and be just a touch better than others.
And honestly, what could be better than pan-fried cheese…not much.
Now it’s time to serve everything up. You know me, I have to go a little above and beyond, so here’s exactly how I plate this dish.
Spoon the polenta into your favorite bowls…I’m all about making things extra pretty. Swirl a few spoonfuls of pesto over the polenta, then add those blistered tomatoes and finish with melty, crispy halloumi.
Done and done. Simple and perfect.
Oh, and please don’t skip the halloumi. I know some of you might think you don’t really need it, but trust me…you need it. It’s salty fried cheese that’s crispy on the outside and soft and melty inside. It’s just delicious, plus it adds the perfect balance to this creamy bowl of polenta and tomatoes.
So what do you all think? Want to join me for an easy late-night bowl of summer polenta?
Looking for other polenta recipes? Here are a few ideas:
Garlic Parmesan Herb Butter Polenta Fries with Lemon Aioli
Pesto Polenta with Thyme Roasted Mushrooms and Chickpeas
Honey Butter Blackened Scallops with Herby Polenta
Lastly, if you make this Cherry Tomato Pesto Polenta with Fried Halloumi, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
Love this! We could literally eat it every night. It’s one of our favorites and so easy to make. My job is unpredictable and hours can be long. It’s great to have a healthy, delicious meal to turn to when you’re exhausted, hungry, and deserving of something tasty and nutritious.
Happy Friday!! Love hearing that you enjoy this recipe, I so appreciate you giving it a try! xxT
I’ve made this recipe three times and every time it’s a hit. The tomatoes with all the herbs is so delicious and satisfying! And don’t get me started on the halloumi; YUM!
Hey Jordan! Thanks so much for trying out this recipe, I hope you loved it! Have a great week ? xTieghan
Delish! Kids gobbled it up too. Never thought to put pesto in polenta and it was so yummy!
Thanks so much! So glad the whole family enjoyed it 🙂 xTieghan
This has become a repeat recipe in our house! So good! Made it again last night for a vegetarian girlfriend. She loved it too!
Happy Sunday! Thanks a lot for making this recipe. I am delighted to hear that it was enjoyed! xTieghan
Quite easy to make and SO delish! Love all the flavors together. It definitely doesn’t win the prize for looking appetizing, but I inhaleddd this dish.
Awesome!! I am so glad this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for making it! xTieghan
I made this tonight! It was so comforting on a cold winter night! I used pre-made polenta in a tube so had to reconstitute it a bit to make it creamier. Great flavor and I loved the halloumi, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, garlic and shallots together!
I so appreciate you giving the recipe a try, I am thrilled it was enjoyed! xTieghan
Made this for the second time tonight and my partner said “this is one delicious dinner!” while eating leftovers straight from the pan. Definitely going to be a staple recipe around here!
Thank you so much Veronica! I am really glad this recipe turned out so well for you! xTieghan
Amazingly delicious and surprisingly easy!
Love to hear that! Thank you Jordan! xTieghan
I have a question about frying halloumi—every time i’ve pan-fried it in a cast iron skillet, it gets very charred on the outside but stays cold on the inside. Doesn’t get melty at all—am i doing something wrong?
I am wondering if your heat is too high? Please let me know if this helps! xTieghan
Loved it…simple, fast, delicious and oh-so-comforting!
Love to hear that! Thank you Heidi! xTieghan
This is my new favorite weekday meal. I never thought of adding pesto to polenta and it is so good and so easy!
Thank you so much Elise! xTieghan
Forgot to give you 5 stars in comment above! Awesome dinner!
This was soooooo delicious and used a good amount of our garden! Win win! Made my own pesto and that and the small splash of balsamic in the tomatoes really makes this! Thanks!
Thank you so much Kara! xTieghan
The ultimate comfort food! We are big fans of polenta, and this took it to the next level! Loved the “zing” from the hot pepper flakes and the balsamic vinegar! I love summer when I can harvest tomatoes and herbs directly from my garden! Thanks for another great recipe!
Thank you Elna! I am so glad this turned out so well for you! xTieghan
First time cooking halloumi. Loved the recipe, but I definitely overcooked the cheese (my bad) and for some reason, it was SO salty straight out of the package. Any idea if I should be rinsing the cheese before cooking for future recipes (or if I just bought some weirdly briney cheese at Sprouts)?
Otherwise, the recipe was fabulous 🙂
Thanks so much for giving the recipe a try! Halloumi can definitely be on the saltier side, next time I would try a different brand or even Feta would work well here. I hope this helps for next time! xTieghan