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Pumpkin Polenta Budino with Caramelized Apples & Walnuts

  • Prep Time:
  • 15 mins
  • Cook Time:
  • 45 mins
  • Total Time:
  • 1 hour(s)

Move over, pumpkin pie . . . there's new pumpkin-perfect holiday dessert in town (and it's gluten-free!). Our pumpkin budino (in Italian, budino means "pudding") is both elegant and comforting with tons of festive flavor from warm spices like  ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. It's finished with heavy whipping cream and a knob of sweet cream butter (Hey, it's the holidays, right?) for an extra luscious, silky texture.  

Cook's note: The components for this dessert can be made in advance so you can impress your guests without the stress. The pumpkin polenta budino can be made a couple days ahead. Chill and bring to room temperature before serving. The caramelized apples can be made one day before or the morning of your dinner. Chill and warm just before serving.


Serves 8-10


For the pumpkin polenta budino:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin purée (or one 15-ounce can)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

For the caramelized apples & toppings:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 6 large, firm apples, like Braeburn or Fuji, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup shelled walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving


For the pumpkin polenta budino, bring the milk and water to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the polenta, whisking continuously, and cook until mixture just starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the pumpkin purée, dark brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice, ground vanilla and sea salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy whipping cream and egg yolk. Whisk into the polenta. Cover the budino with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pudding and cool to room temperature. Make ahead: The budino can be made up to 2 days in advance. Chill and bring to room temperature before serving.

A half an hour before serving, make the caramelized apples. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. Stir in the brown sugar and cook until it just starts to dissolve, about one minute. Add the sliced apples, stirring to coat them the melted butter and sugar (don’t worry if it looks like the sugar is sticking to the apples, it will dissolve and melt into a luscious caramel sauce as they cook).

Reduce the heat to medium and cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Make ahead: These can be made the day before. Chill overnight and warm them before serving.

To serve, spread a couple spoonfuls of the pumpkin polenta budino into individual bowls and top with some of caramelized apples and their juices, a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and a dollop of whipped cream.

If you are serving a crowd or this is part of a buffet, spread the pumpkin polenta budino in a large shallow serving bowl and top with the apples and chopped walnuts. Serve the whipped cream and let your guests garnish their own servings.