Sweet Potato Polenta Crostini with Ricotta, Kale Pesto, and Bacon

Sweet Potato Polenta Crostini with Ricotta, Kale Pesto, and Bacon is crispy sweet potato polenta rounds topped with ricotta, fresh kale pesto, and crumbled bacon.  It’s a lively, flavorful appetizer and it’s gluten free!

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At long last, I’m dishing up something savory for you, and I’m so happy to do it.  Are you sugared out yet?  I have to say I’ve pretty much eaten my fill of Christmas treats and am ready to move on, minus the hot cocoa and Whole Foods fresh peppermint marshmallows.  That I can do every day until the end of time.  🙂

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You know what else I could eat every day from now until the end of time?  Appetizers!  To me, appetizers and small plates are the most interesting when I go out to dinner.  So many beautiful little plates with multiple components and flavors that just get the old appetite going.

I really do love polenta, and I wanted to do something different with it.  I’ve made sweet potato polenta before, and I thought the flavor and color would be really nice for a holiday appetizer.  You can microwave some sweet potatoes and mash them up with a potato masher, or use a can of sweet potato puree from Whole Foods.  So easy. 🙂

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I’d never made crispy little rounds out of polenta before, and now I’m definitely hooked!  For starters, is a nice gluten free alternative, and it’s like a blank canvas — you can do so much with it.   It was hard for me to narrow down how I wanted to top these crostini.  Pulled pork?  Mushrooms?  Well, I’d made some kale-walnut pesto, and I had bacon and ricotta, so that’s the direction I went.  Plus, I figured these colors would be so pretty on the holiday table, no?

Polenta comes together in about 20-30 minutes, then you simply spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet and when it’s cool, you cut it into rounds.  Or you can cut them into little triangles or squares…whatever shape your into.  I was envisioning circles, so circles it was.

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The sweet potato-kale combination is delicious, but if you don’t have kale pesto, no worries — you can use any type you have on hand.  The kale pesto is hearty and slightly bitter, which I love.  I toned it down a bit by adding a smidgen of agave syrup.  The best part about the pesto is that it can be made in advance and frozen until you’re ready to use it.  You can pull it out of the freezer and throw a beautiful appetizer together.  🙂

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The bacon was the crowning glory that pulled it all together, because it pairs perfectly with the polenta, kale, and sweet potato.  This is one hearty appetizer that you can make a meal out of.  I know I did….right after this photo shoot. 🙂

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Sweet Potato Polenta Crostini with Ricotta, Kale Pesto, and Bacon
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Sweet Potato Polenta Crostini with Ricotta, Kale Pesto, and Bacon is a hearty, delicious appetizer that's naturally gluten free!
Author:
Serves: About 24 crostini
Ingredients
For the polenta:
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes or 1 cup canned sweet potato puree
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • ⅓ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • salt, to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
For the kale pesto:
  • 1 bunch lacinto kale, tough stems removed, roughly chopped, washed, and drained slightly
  • 3 tablespoons toasted walnuts, roughly chopped*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon agave syrup*
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
For the ricotta:
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon, cooked according to package instructions, crumbled
Instructions
Prepare the polenta:
  1. If you're not using canned puree, pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork and place in the microwave. Cook for 8-10 minutes on high, or until the potato is very tender. When it's cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Lightly grease a 12"x8" rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  3. Cook the polenta according to package instructions. When it's done, stir in the sweet potato puree, parmesan, brown sugar, softened butter, and salt, to taste. Pour the polenta mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly -- it will be about ½" thick. When it's cooled slightly, place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour or until chilled.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator and cut out rounds using a 2" round biscuit cutter, cutting them as close together as possible. Spread the remaining "scraps" of polenta in the baking sheet and repeat, cutting out as many rounds as possible. Blot the polenta rounds with a paper towel if necessary to remove excess moisture. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the tops lightly with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crisp and lightly golden brown.
Prepare the kale pesto:
  1. Place the kale in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the lemon juice, garlic, agave syrup, and parmesan cheese, and pulse to combine. With the machine on, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream and process until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste, and process once more. Set aside.
Prepare the ricotta:
  1. Place the ricotta, parmesan, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt and pepper, to taste in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Assemble the crostini:
  1. Place the polenta rounds on a serving platter. Place a dollop of the ricotta mixture over each round, followed by the kale pesto and top with the crumbled bacon. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
*Toast the walnuts in an single layer in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant.

*I used agave syrup to cut the bitterness of the kale. The agave can be substituted with honey or granulated sugar.

The ricotta and kale pesto may be made in advance and stored in air tight containers in the refrigerator.

The polenta rounds may also be made in advance and left at room temperature in an air tight container, but they will need to be crisped in the oven for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe by Flavor the Moments.