Apr 10, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Polenta Pie + What is Resistant Starch?

Polenta is an Italian word, derived from the Latin for hulled and crushed grain, especially barley-meal. Corn was not cultivated in Europe until the early 16th century. The word comes from the same root as “pollen.”

Italian cuisine has often been characterized by being the food of the peasant and just as poor Southern Italians worked the fields with their bellies full of pasta, Northern Italians subsisted on little more than polenta for centuries. In this way, polenta is truly an Italian national dish, and may have a history much more ancient than either pizza or pasta.

Many health minded people would say that corn is too “starchy” and therefore should be avoided or limited. While I tend to agree on the limited part, especially since other vegetables contain far more micronutrients, there is something about corn that is actually quite healthful: resistant starch. What is it?

Resistant starch is a natural dietary fiber that comes from beans (the best source) and legumes as well as some “starchy” vegetables and whole grains. Simply put, it is starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and acts like a dietary fiber in the large intestine. Within the large intestine, resistant starch ferments, nurturing the growth of friendly, health-promoting bacteria (probiotics). Foods that help friendly bacteria grow—like beans and corn—are called “prebiotics.” This fermentation has been shown to promote regularity, assist in helping maintain healthy weight, maintain a strong immune system and keep blood sugar levels within normal range[1][2].

Common food sources of resistant starch:

  • Beans: 8 g per 1/2 cup 
  • Yams: 4 g per 1/2 cup 
  • Barley: 3 g per 1/2 cup 
  • Brown rice: 3 g per 1/2 cup 
  • Corn: 2 g per 1/2 cup

To get the most from resistant starch, choose whole, unprocessed sources of carbohydrate such as whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes.

Back to the dish! I cannot believe how easy this was to put together. Polenta is something that I have had quite often. When I made it in the past I would finish it with heavy cream… wow, talk about empty calories from fat! This version is just as creamy (really!) and much healthier. There is no crust so it’s gluten-free, no oil and very little sodium. I hope you will try it…

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups polenta (coarse corn meal)
  • 3½ cups water
  • ½ cup unsweetened plant-based milk
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Spike salt-free seasoning
  • 1 large roasted red pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 green onion stalk
  • almond parmesan cheeze and a sprinkle of paprika for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. First roast your pepper. You may want to do more than one as long as you’re roasting, and save the others. You can purchase roasted red peppers at the store but it’s so ridiculously easy to do yourself. Besides the store-bought ones are nowhere near as good (they always taste bitter to me) and also contain salt, oil and usually some kind of preservative. Oh, and be sure to use organic peppers. Peppers are one of the most heavily sprayed vegetables when they are conventionally grown and contain many pesticide residues. To roast your pepper(s), simply place them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F until the skin is browned and bubbling. Turn them once mid-baking to ensure an even roasting. When evenly browned, remove and immediately cover with a dishtowel. Let cool. The skins should peel off very easily now. Remove the seeds. If you’re making extra, store them in the refrigerator in a mason jar with some fresh garlic and a little lemon juice. They’re super yummy in sandwiches and on salads!
  2. Lightly grease a pie plate and set aside.
  3. Next, prepare your veggies. Dice the red pepper, the basil and the green onion and set aside (save some green onions separately for garnish)
  4. Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil with the salt, if using.
  5. Gradually add the polenta while whisking.
  6. Add the onion powder, garlic powder and Spike.
  7. Turn the heat down to low and continue whisking while simmering. It’s important to keep stirring to prevent sticking and to create a creamy consistency. Before all the water is absorbed, add the soymilk. Keep stirring! When all of the liquids are absorbed, mix in your veggies and basil. Stir well to combine.
  8. Pour the mixture into the pie plate, spread evenly, and bake at 200 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes. This will allow the pie to set up and be firm enough to slice by removing any remaining excess liquids.
  9. Let the pie cool a bit before serving. This will also help in slicing as it will firm up when it cools off.
  10. Garnish with some green onions, paprika and almond parmesan cheeze.

Serves 4 hungry folks. Enjoy!

Healthy trails,


  1. Anderson GH, et al. Relation between estimates of cornstarch digestibility by the Englyst in vitro method and glycemic response, subjective appetite, and short-term food intake in young men. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:932-939.
  2. Johnston KL, et al. Resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity in metabolic syndrome. Diabet Med 2010;27:391-397.

2 responses to “Roasted Red Pepper Polenta Pie + What is Resistant Starch?”

  1. moonwatcher says:

    This looks absolutely wonderful, Helyn! I can't believe I somehow missed it. I like polenta a lot, and my relatives, like yours, must have eaten a lot of it. Thanks for summary of resistant starch too.

  2. Helyn says:

    Yes, well this post is from a while back! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks, Maria!

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