Deborah Madison's Peas with Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

[Photograph: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton]

Shucking fresh peas is not a quick task, I'll admit. But if you can get your hands on some fresh peas in their pods at a farmers' market in the next couple of weeks, grab them and commit to an extra half hour of meal prep. Deborah Madison's unassuming Peas with Baked Ricotta from her new book Vegetable Literacy is worth it. The bright sweetness of the buttery peas matches perfectly with the creamy richness of fresh ricotta, and baking the ricotta with olive oil and fresh bread crumbs transforms cheese and peas into an actual meal.

Why I picked this recipe: Fresh peas are one of the greatest joys of spring (in my humble opinion).

What worked: Peas and ricotta are a match made in spring heaven.

What didn't: No problems here.

Suggested tweaks: Should you find yourself unable to resist the call of peas and cheese but are without fresh peas, this dish will work with the frozen variety. You'll only need to simmer them until they warm up (about a minute or so). Madison also suggests bulking up the dish with pasta should you want a more substantial dish. Shells, snails, or orecchiette would work well.

Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Familes from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes by Deborah Madison. Copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

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Deborah Madison's Peas with Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 2
Active time:45 minutes
Total time:1 hour and 15 minutes
This recipe appears in: Deborah Madison's Peas with Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 cup high-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped 
full-fat ricotta
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  • 2 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 5 small sage leaves, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 pounds pod peas, shucked (about 1 cup)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating

Procedures

  1. 1

    Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish; a round Spanish earthenware dish about 6 inches across is perfect for this amount.

  2. 2

    If your ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out the excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the dish, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface, and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top. Cover the surface with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, another 10 minutes. (The amount of time it takes for ricotta cheese to bake until set can vary tremendously, so it may well take longer than the times given here, especially if it wasn’t drained.)

  3. 3

    When the cheese is finished baking, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots and sage and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas, 1/2 cup water, and the lemon zest. Simmer until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should be 3 to 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t let them turn gray. Season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper, not too much.

  4. 4

    Divide the ricotta between 2 plates. Spoon the peas over the cheese. Grate some Parmesan over all and enjoy while warm.

  5. 5

    Variation with pasta: Cook 1 cup or so pasta shells in boiling, salted water. Drain and toss them with the peas, cooked as above, and then with the ricotta. The peas nestle in the pasta, like little green pearls.

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