Baked Ricotta with Asparagus Pesto and Griddled and Baked Asparagus
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a light lunch (see Cook’s Note)
When the asparagus season begins, it’s a wonderful feeling because it signals that early summer is on its way. Asparagus almost opens the gates to the glut of lovely fresh seasonal produce that will soon become readily available over the next few months.
The baked ricotta is an excellent little recipe in its own right. It’s so easy to make and once it’s ready, it can simply be set aside and reheated under the grill when you are ready to serve.
The asparagus pesto is simply great. I use the trimmings of the asparagus and any damaged spears for this recipe. Just make sure that you cook the asparagus until soft, then refresh it in iced water before adding it to the rest of the ingredients to make the pesto.
I serve this dish as a light lunch with crusty bread. You could also serve it as a starter, if you prefer (see Cook’s Note).
Please watch the accompanying video for tips on making and plating up this fabulous dish that truly celebrates the new season’s asparagus.
Ingredients & Method
For the baked ricotta
- 250g ricotta cheese
- 1 medium egg
- 50g finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- finely grated zest and juice of ¼ lemon
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the asparagus pesto
- 100g asparagus trimmings, roughly chopped
- 20g rocket leaves or watercress
- 20g toasted pine nuts
- 20g finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 100ml olive oil
For the baked asparagus
- 50g panko breadcrumbs
- finely grated zest and juice of ¾ lemon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 12 asparagus spears
For the griddled asparagus
- 12 asparagus spears
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
To finish and serve
- classic vinaigrette http://www.britishlarder.co.uk/classic-vinaigrette/#axzz3YrwpsHKr
- handful of fresh pea shoots or watercress
First prepare the baked ricotta. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place 8 lightly greased 5cm diameter metal rings on the tray. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice and salt and pepper until combined. Divide the mix between the prepared metal rings, pressing the mix into the rings using a spoon. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until nearly firm but still slightly soft (they will rise during baking, but will shrink back once removed from the oven). Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack and set aside at room temperature whilst you prepare the rest of the recipe. Leave the oven on at the same temperature (for the baked asparagus).
Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus pesto. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil, then add the asparagus trimmings and cook for 2–3 minutes or until tender. Drain, refresh in iced water, then drain again. Place the cooked asparagus in a blender with the rocket, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, mustard, oil and salt and pepper. Blend together to make a coarse pate consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, then transfer to a small covered container and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
For the baked asparagus, line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside. Mix together the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and seasoning in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the melted butter and the lemon juice. Place the asparagus spears in a tray or container, then pour over the melted butter/lemon juice mix and turn to coat all over. Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs onto the lined baking tray, place the buttered asparagus into the crumbs (discard any leftover butter/lemon juice mix) and then cover with the rest of the breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for 6–8 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the asparagus is cooked. Remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, for the griddled asparagus, heat a griddle pan over a high heat until hot. Toss the asparagus with the oil and seasoning in a bowl. Cook the asparagus on the hot griddle pan for about 5–6 minutes, turning once or twice, until coloured all over and cooked through. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate.
To serve, carefully remove the rings from the baked ricotta using a paring knife and either place them under a preheated hot grill for a few seconds or use a cook’s blowtorch to colour the tops golden brown. Drizzle a little classic vinaigrette over the griddled asparagus, then add a few drops of vinaigrette to the pea shoots and toss.
Place the baked ricotta on serving plates, then arrange the griddled and baked asparagus alongside. Spoon on dollops of asparagus pesto and then garnish with the dressed pea shoots. Sprinkle over a few drops of classic vinaigrette, then scatter over a few golden breadcrumbs from the baked asparagus and serve.
This recipe can also be served as a starter to serve 8 people. Serve 1 baked ricotta and 3 griddled/baked asparagus spears per person (dividing the griddled/baked asparagus spears between each serving – some will get two griddled spears and one baked spear, and vice versa). Or, increase the number of griddled and baked asparagus spears to 16 of each, so that every serving gets two cooked spears of each type.