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Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus (How to Cook Polenta in Instant Pot)

Sautéed cauliflower and onions whisked into polenta and baked, served with salty tender-crisp asparagus and toasted hazelnuts, this polenta cauliflower torta is simple Italian comfort food turned elegant.

plated slice of Polenta Cauliflower Torta

Click here to PIN Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus.


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Sautéed cauliflower florets and sweet onions give the rustic polenta a creamy lighter moistness and amazing flavor.  Spread the hot polenta and vegetable mixture in a cheesecake springform pan and bake to a golden brown crisp-edged torta. While it’s baking, roast the asparagus and toast the hazelnuts.

This recipe includes directions for how to cook cornmeal polenta quick and easy, in the Instant Pot or in the microwave oven.

Plated Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus

Keep in mind that soft hot polenta cornmeal sets up quickly—as soon as you pour it into the mold. This means the cauliflower and onions need to be cooked and seasoned, ready to whisk into the thickened polenta. Once in the mold, the polenta needs to chill for about 15 minutes before baking. If it’s more convenient, you can make ahead and keep the torta unbaked in the refrigerator, to bake later in the day or the next day.

Sautéed Cauliflower and Onions ready to whisk into polenta

An hour before you’re ready to serve your polenta cauliflower torta, bake it to golden brown and roast the asparagus with olive oil, flaked sea salt, and pepper until just tender. Serve on a pretty platter with a ring of roasted asparagus tips and crunchy chopped hazelnuts!

Keep it vegan: Instead of the cheese, stir 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast into the polenta.

Closeup photo of Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus on silver platter

Have you always avoided cooking polenta from scratch?

The minute you read that polenta has to be cooked and stirred for 45 minutes, do you turn the page? Yeah, me too. With an Instant Pot pressure cooker or microwave oven, making polenta is quick and easy! In like 15 minutes!

To cook polenta in the Instant Pot pressure cooker:

Put the vegetable broth and water, polenta cornmeal, olive oil, salt, and Aleppo pepper in the Instant Pot. Do not stir. Lock lid. Cook on Porridge setting with time adjusted to 7 minutes. Natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then vent to release the pressure completely. Stir in the vegetables and if using, the cheese.

To cook polenta in the microwave oven:

Combine the water, vegetable broth, salt, polenta and the olive oil in a microwave-proof bowl. Cover and cook on highest power for five minutes. Stir, cover again and cook for another five minutes. Stir in the vegetables, and, if using, the cheese, then cover and cook for three more minutes.

To cook polenta without an Instant Pot or microwave oven, follow these stovetop or oven methods:

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Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus ingredient notes:

  • Marsala, a rich, smoky flavored Italian fortified wine, adds unique flavor to the cauliflower and onions, and ultimately the torta. Due to its high alcohol content, Marsala keeps a long time–I’ve nursed my bottle for years, for this and that, like zabaglione custard. If you don’t want to go out and buy a bottle, a feasible substitute is 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine mixed with 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar. For a non-alcoholic substitute, use 1 1/2 tablespoons white grape juice plus 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar. Here are other possible substitutes.
  • Slightly fruity Aleppo pepper is milder than red pepper flakes and definitely worth having in your spice cabinet. Aleppo pepper’s subtle heat and vibrant flavor is delicious with pasta and greens too.
  • Hazelnuts are sometimes sold as filberts. Buy them out of the shell, raw or lightly roasted, no salt.
  • Polenta cornmeal is sometimes called corn grits. Don’t use instant polenta.

More recipe ideas:

**** This is an updated recipe of the polenta cauliflower torta I posted 3 years ago. Thanks to a suggestion by reader Wendy C., this version is much easier than the original, freakin’ easy when you cook the polenta in the Instant Pot or microwave oven. Inspired by the polenta torta in The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas.


#Eat Seasonal:

Polenta cauliflower torta with roasted asparagus is part of April’s seasonal recipe roundup, orchestrated by our friend Becky from The Vintage Mixer blog.
Be sure to check out Becky’s April post with seasonal produce and recipes–here. For more recipes showcasing seasonal fruits and veggies, see the links from the following bevy of bloggers. We hope our recipes encourage you to get in the kitchen and cook something delicious—and seasonal!

Sugar Snap Pea and Bacon Salad by Completely Delicious

BBQ Cauliflower & Chickpea Veggie Burgers by She Likes Food

Roasted Asparagus with Sautéed Shallots and Kumquats by Floating Kitchen

Asparagus Grilled Cheese by Vintage Mixer

Frittata with Ham and Asparagus by Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Easy Homemade Guacamole by Joy Food Sunshine

Sorghum Vegetable Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette by Cafe Johnsonia

Mushroom Rosemary Olive Oil Bread by Cookin’ Canuck

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic, Gorgonzola and Walnuts by Aggie’s Kitchen

Herbed Potato Rösti with Peas, Shallots, and Bacon by Food for My Family

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Walnut-Bacon Crumble by Simple Bites

Creamy Pasta with Salmon and Asparagus by Foodie Crush

Ultimate Veggie Sandwich with Lemon Herb Cream Cheese by Flavor the Moments

Spring Mint and Papaya Batido by Suitcase Foodist

Skillet Shrimp with Lime and Green Curry Compound Butter by Kitchen Confidante

Loaded Guacamole Tacos by Mountain Mama Cooks

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Nutrition Facts
Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus
Amount Per Serving
Calories 218 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 645mg28%
Potassium 356mg10%
Carbohydrates 24g8%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 873IU17%
Vitamin C 21mg25%
Calcium 39mg4%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

20 comments

  • What a creative recipe! We love polenta around here, so I am sure your torta would be a hit. Reply · 3 April, 2017

    • Thank you Aimee! This torta is also delicious with sautéed garlicky greens. Reply · 3 April, 2017

  • Oooo….I enjoy creamy polenta fairly often, but love the idea of shaping it into a slice-able torta! Perfect for Easter or Mother’s Day! Reply · 3 April, 2017

  • This is such a gorgeous dish Letty! I love polenta and don’t make it often enough. I need to give this a try! Reply · 3 April, 2017

    • Marcie–polenta has long been an easy go-to for me because I’ve always cooked it in the microwave. 15 minutes total and done. Now I don’t have to use the micro, since I figured out how to Instant Pot! Like risotto, I have never cooked polenta the stove-top forever stirring method! (Face palm.) Reply · 3 April, 2017

  • I think you just solved my polenta problem! Whenever I try to fry it to get it crispy, it spatters all over the place. I’d almost given up in despair. Baking! I’m going to have to try this ASAP. Reply · 3 April, 2017

    • Lydia. I cut any leftovers into wedges, then pan-fry them for extra crispiness! Reply · 3 April, 2017

  • What a cool technique to make this festive entree! How creative! Reply · 4 April, 2017

  • Oh my goodness, I have to make this as soon as possible! (I’m going a cleanse right now – no polenta for a few weeks…boo.) I love that you cook polenta in a microwave! I have scars from the burns of it bubbling up as I stir. The presentation is just beautiful! Reply · 4 April, 2017

    • Thank you Lindsey. I sometimes feel guilty cooking polenta in the micro–but it is soooo easy. The instant pot is almost as easy but…. Reply · 4 April, 2017

  • I’ve only cooked with polenta once before and I keep telling myself I need to use it again soon. This polenta torta is such a great idea and I love all the added seasonal produce! Reply · 6 April, 2017

    • Thanks Izzy. Polenta is a wonderful base for so many different foods. I like to make a polenta lasagne casserole too. Reply · 7 April, 2017

  • Wendy

    This was delicious! Our family is not vegetarian, I used chicken broth and I added shredded cooked chicken to the polenta. Because I didn’t have time to refrigerate the polenta, I poured the mixture into a cheesecake pan and baked it that way. It turned out perfect. I will probably always make it that way! Reply · 10 April, 2017

    • Thank you for writing Wendy! I think I will make it in a cheesecake pan next time. Good punt! Reply · 10 April, 2017

  • This seems like a healthy and palatable lunch idea, Letty! Thanks a bunch for giving me the perfect idea for my next lunch! Reply · 11 April, 2017

    • Thanks Agness! I love a wedge of this polenta cold–for lunch the next day!! Reply · 11 April, 2017

  • Steve Harty

    Hey There, We made this as a side for our Easter dinner, and it was the the favorite! I used the microwave technique which made polenta so easy! Thanks Letty and Happy Easter Reply · 12 April, 2020

    • Thank you Steve! So glad you found this recipe a winner! Reply · 13 April, 2020

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