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.
Making this cherry tomato pesto polenta is easy.
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:
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!
Cherry Tomato Pesto Polenta with Fried Halloumi
Calories Per Serving: 371 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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- 1 1/2 cups dry quick-cooking polenta
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces halloumi cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
- 4 cups cherry tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme, and dill
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
- fresh chopped chives, for serving
- 1. To make the polenta. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta, stirring until the polenta is soft and thick, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the butter, parmesan, the pesto, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let the polenta sit 5 minutes.4. Meanwhile, cook the halloumi. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the halloumi and cook until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from skillet.3. To the same skillet, add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tomatoes, garlic, shallot, herbs, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the tomatoes begin to pop, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the balsamic vinegar and basil. 4. Divide the polenta between bowls. Spoon the tomatoes over top, then add the Halloumi. Drizzle with additional pesto and top with fresh basil and chives. Enjoy!