Breakfast or dinner?? This deliciously creamy Pesto Polenta can be served any time of the day! The ultimate comfort food, it's made with homemade pesto and parmesan cheese and is topped with crispy kale, crumbled bacon, and a fried egg.
(This recipe was originally published in February 2014, but has been updated with new photos and content in 2022).
I think polenta is one of the most underrated comfort foods ever. At least here in America. It's creamy and comforting and so versatile in that you can add any mix-ins or toppings to suit it to your tastes.
Plus? It can be enjoyed any time of day. Though many of us don't think about polenta when we're considering breakfast foods, it's an awesome way to start a cold winter day.
This recipe takes a classic polenta and mixes in pesto and parmesan cheese, along with crispy kale and bacon toppings. Oh, and don't forget the fried egg!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
The biggest reason you'll love this pesto polenta recipe is because it's absolutely delicious! It's packed with flavor and the kind of meal you just want to cozy up on the couch with.
I love the idea of it as a cold day breakfast, but also love meals like this for dinner.
Despite the fact that it has a few different components to it, it's also pretty easy to make. And it can be served as leftovers, too!
This recipe has a few different components, including a homemade pesto, polenta, and crispy kale. But all are easy to make and you don't need too many ingredients to make the meal come together.
Here's everything you need:
- Pine nuts
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Unsalted butter
- Parmesan cheese
How to Make Homemade Pesto
It's best to start this recipe by making the pesto. You can even do this a day or two ahead of time if you want. And if you don't want to make your own pesto, you can just buy a jar of it!
But I promise that it's quite easy to make. All you need is a blender or food processor and a few simple ingredients.
Simply, add basil, garlic, and pine nuts to a blender or food processor and process until coarsely chopped.
Add ⅓ cup of the olive oil to blender and process until fully incorporated. Set aside. You won't need it until you're done with the polenta. If you're making a day ahead of time, be sure to store in the fridge.
Typically pesto has parmesan cheese mixed into it, too. But since we're using this pesto in the polenta, we're just going to mix the parmesan in to the polenta separately.
If you prefer to use store-bought pesto instead of making your own, you definitely can! Just note that it will likely be a bit saltier than homemade since it will already have parmesan mixed in. Adjust salt and parmesan accordingly when you're mixing everything into the polenta (though additional cheese is not usually a bad thing!).
How to Make Crispy Kale
It's a good idea to prepare the kale now, too, since it will take a little time in the oven.
Spread the kale on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil.
Pop the baking sheet in the oven and bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes until kale crisps up.
Crispy kale is one of my favorite snacks! But it also makes a great topping for so many dishes because it adds a nice earthy crunch.
How to Make Pesto Polenta
While the kale is in the oven, let's get started on the polenta! It's also super easy, so don't be worried if you haven't made it before.
To start, being water, milk, and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan.
Slowly whisk cornmeal into saucepan and bring heat down to low. Whisk vigorously every few minutes. Continue to cook and whisk for about 20-30 minutes, until polenta thickens and is tender.
I just want to dive into that saucepan!
Make sure your bacon is cooked nice and crispy at this point, too.
And when the polenta is done cooking, add in butter, parmesan cheese, and pesto.
Why does this picture make me so happy??
Now, cook your eggs! I usually melt a little butter in a skillet and let the eggs fry for a few minutes.
Spoon polenta into bowls. Place a layer of crispy kale on top of the polenta.
Top with a fried egg. Crumble bacon and sprinkle around, with a little extra parmesan if you’d like.
Oh my goodness; I think this is what true love feels like.
Breakfast? Dinner? I really don’t think anyone’s going to argue with you either way. You could probably serve this for every meal of the day with no complaints.
I'm especially happy when my egg yolk is nice and runny. And my kale is nice and crispy.
Is anyone else constantly shocked by how putting some kale in the oven for a few minutes can make it taste completely different. If you know anyone who doesn't like kale, bake it for them. And bam! They'll love it. If they still don't, put a fried egg on it...
And serve it with a super creamy and flavorful polenta.
Of course a little crumbled bacon sprinkled about doesn't hurt too much either.
How to Store Leftovers
This recipe makes quite a bit of pesto polenta, so there's a chance you'll have some leftovers. But that's a good thing because it's easy to heat them up to enjoy later.
I do recommend keeping the components of the dish separate and storing like so:
- Keep the polenta in an airtight container in the fridge
- Store kale in an airtight container at room temperature
- Keep bacon in a plastic bag in the fridge
- I recommend making the eggs right before serving. You can always top the polenta with a hardboiled egg that you keep stored in the fridge.
How to Re-Heat Polenta
You can easily re-heat the pesto polenta either in a saucepan on the stovetop or in a bowl in the microwave.
Note that you may need to add a little bit of water or milk to thin out the consistency.
If you're heating the polenta in the microwave, heat it at short intervals and remove and stir as you go.
More Breakfast for Dinner Recipes
If you love dishes that can be served for breakfast OR dinner, you've come to the right place! I have lots of favorites, including:
- Breakfast Risotto with Bacon and Poached Egg
- BLT Breakfast Tacos
- Hummus Breakfast Bowls
- Avocado Prosciutto Egg Toast
- Spicy Sausage Chilaquiles with Eggs
- Jalapeño Cornmeal Pancakes
- Thai Scrambled Egg Tacos
- Huevos Rancheros Spaghetti
- Boston Baked Beans and Eggs
- Tomatillo Shakshuka (from Barley and Sage)
- Asparagus Frittata (from She Loves Biscotti)
Whenever you're enjoying this pesto polenta, I hope it warms you up and brings you all kinds of comfort and happiness!
Pesto Polenta with Crispy Kale, Bacon, and Egg
- 1 cup basil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts
- ⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 cups kale, ribs removed and chopped
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cup cornmeal
- 6 strips bacon, cooked crispy
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 6 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add basil, garlic, and pine nuts to a blender or food processor and process until coarsely chopped.
- Add ⅓ cup of the olive oil to blender and process until fully incorporated. Set aside.
- Spread kale on a baking sheet and drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Pop in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until kale crisps up.
- While kale is baking, bring water, milk, and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan.
- Slowly whisk cornmeal into saucepan and bring heat down to low. Whisk vigorously every few minutes. Continue to cook and whisk for about 20-30 minutes, until polenta thickens and is tender.
- When polenta is done cooking, stir in 1 Tbsp butter, parmesan cheese, and pesto.
- In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat or in two separate skillets, melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter. Add eggs to pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until whites are just set around edges.
- Spoon polenta into four bowls. Place a layer of crispy kale on top of the polenta and top with a fried egg. Crumble bacon and sprinkle on top. Add additional parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper if desired.
- If you don't want to make your own pesto, you can use store-bought. Note that it will likely be saltier than homemade and adjust additional salt and parmesan cheeses added to polenta accordingly.