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Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites {gluten-free}

Summertime…  And the living is easy. Catfish are jumping, and the cotton is high. Don’t you cry. Stir up these easy green and gold gems–arugula and cashew pesto on polenta bites.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

How about these inviting nibbles for hot summer weather? Simple to make and stress-free to assemble, plus you don’t need to be anywhere near the oven. That keeps summertime living easy.

To make emerald pesto, pulse everything in your trusty food processor—and lick the spatula in 4 minutes. Rock your polenta in the microwave and in 13 minutes it will be hot and thick, ready to spread in a pan to cool.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

Including prep and assembly, in 45 minutes, you will be wooing everyone, including yourself, with pesto on polenta gems. They can be yours even sooner if you slice polenta from a shelf-stable tube shaped roll.

Pesto, from the Latin root verb pestare to pound. According to dictionaries, pesto an Italian sauce, made especially of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Typically, pesto is stirred into hot pasta.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

There is nothing typical about pesto in our gourmet foodie world. We pound pesto from cilantro, mint, broccoli and kale—just about any green veggie. Try replacing basil with spinach to satisfy your fresh pesto cravings in winter. Spicy arugula shines green and garlicky on top of cold and creamy polenta.

Those expensive pine nuts be damned, creative cooks these days mash any crunchy nut we please into pesto, like the barely bitter walnuts in my go-to basil pesto. A quick Google search will lead you to pesto made with pecans, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and almonds. I love the texture of the cashew component in today’s recipe.

Would pesto purists consider it authentic if made with cheese other than Parmigiano-Reggiano? I think not. The rest of us–we try feta. Vegans can leave out the cheese and substiture fresh tangy lemon juice and zest.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

Pesto absolutely must include zesty garlic. That’s where I draw the line. Make pesto with any nut, vegetable or cheese you want, just don’t leave out essential garlic.

Top polenta bites with arugula and cashew pesto for awesome appetizers. Link to my polenta recipe here, featured as the crust of a spinach and green garlic tart.

Summer. Time. And the cooking is easy. Kick off your shoes and enjoy the music. This song. Sung by Sam Cooke. From the 1930’s musical Porgy and Bess.

More pesto recipes:
Kale Salad with Sunflower Seed Pesto on Letty’s Kitchen
Caprese Veggie Patties with Basil Arugula Pesto on Letty’s Kitchen
Vegan Pistachio Kale Pesto on Edible Perspective

I probably spend way too much time cruising the Internet, though I’m glad I came across the vegetarian food blog lacucinadihanneke. Thanks Hanneke for inspiring this arugula and cashew pesto on polenta bites. (Warning–the blog includes blaring advertisements—in Italian, that bug the hell out of me. I promise I’ll never put such noise on Letty’s Kitchen.)

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Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites {gluten-free}
This zippy pesto recipe makes a whole lot more than you need to top little 1-inch appetizers. Freeze the rest for winter stash. And if you like pesto super zippy, whirl a second clove of garlic into the food processor.
  • Arugula and Cashew Pesto:
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups (lightly packed) arugula leaves, about 3 ounces
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon Real Salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Polenta:
  • 1 recipe homemade polenta or 1 tube purchased shelf-stable polenta
  1. The pesto:
  2. With the motor of the food processor running, mince the garlic by dropping it through the feed tube. Process until it is very fine and stops moving around with the blade.
  3. Add the arugula, cashews, cheese and salt to the food processor bowl.
  4. Process for about 10 seconds, stopping to move things around if they get hung up.
  5. With the machine running, pour oil through the feed tube in a thin stream, processing until everything is well blended.
  6. The assembly:
  7. Spread hot polenta in a 9 x 13-inch pan. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes, up to one day. Cut into 1-inch squares, as many as you need.
  8. Alternatively, slice ¼-inch rounds from purchased polenta tube. Cut each slice in 4 wedges.
  9. To serve, dollop ¼ teaspoon fresh arugula and cashew pesto on each piece of polenta.


  • kathleen

    I need an appetizer for a Thursday night get together with the girls before seeing “Chorus Line”!
    This will be it, THANKS!! Reply · 22 July, 2014

    • Letty

      Yes! Let me know if you make the polenta or use the rolls. Enjoy! The apps and Chorus Line–I’m missing it. 🙁 Reply · 22 July, 2014

  • Oh I love your love of greens Letty! What a creative treat! Reply · 3 August, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks MJ! Yes! Greens! Reply · 4 August, 2014



  • Letty

    Oh yes! Though he cooks quite a bit. Reply · 8 August, 2014

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