Lemony Baked Ricotta Dumplings with Asparagus and Pea Pesto

updated May 18, 2021
Mediterranean Monday
Lemony Baked Ricotta Dumplings with Asparagus and Pea Pesto

This springtime dinner takes advantage of some of the season's best green veggies. They join forces with fluffy ricotta dumplings and crunchy pistachios for a light yet cozy meal.

Serves4

Prep30 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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lemon ricotta dumplings on plates
Credit: Photo: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

If May were a color, it would be green — and this vibrant dinner proves it. Verdant stalks of roasted asparagus, pastel pea pesto, and mossy, mint-hued pistachios pop against the pillowy, lemon-scented ricotta dumplings they’re paired with.

There are all sorts of exciting textures going on here, which means your fork has a lot of good things to grab onto. Break apart a creamy dumpling and spear it with juicy asparagus and crunchy pistachios before scooping them all up with a swipe of rustic pea pesto. It’s a celebration of spring on your plate, and it’s as light and delicate as it is cozy and satisfying.

Credit: Photo: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

The Low-Effort Secret to Creamy, Fluffy Ricotta Dumplings

The dumplings here are my lazy approach to ricotta gnudi, the large boiled Italian dumplings that are delicate and tender. While gnudi require a lot of attention while cooking to ensure they don’t fall apart, this baked version hardly asks you to sweat at all. Simply drop mounds of the lemony ricotta mixture on a bed of asparagus, where they’ll cook while the spears roast.

Seek out the best, thickest ricotta you can find to ensure the dumplings don’t spread too much in the hot oven. Galbani Double Cream ricotta is my favorite grocery store brand when I can’t make it to the Italian market.

Welcome to Mediterranean MondaySheela Prakash‘s monthly column of Mediterranean recipes. Here, Sheela will teach you all about the Mediterranean diet’s feel-good way of cooking and eating, and share vibrant, easygoing recipes. Cook with us using #mediterraneanmonday, and for even more great recipes, order a copy of Sheela’s cookbook Mediterranean Every Day.

Lemony Baked Ricotta Dumplings with Asparagus and Pea Pesto

This springtime dinner takes advantage of some of the season's best green veggies. They join forces with fluffy ricotta dumplings and crunchy pistachios for a light yet cozy meal.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    fresh or frozen shelled peas

  • 1 pound

    asparagus

  • 1/3 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 2 ounces

    Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 firmly packed cup grated on a Microplane or 2/3 cup store-bought)

  • 1

    small lemon

  • 1 (15 to 16-ounce) container

    high-quality whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 small clove

    garlic

  • 1/3 cup

    shelled, roasted, and lightly salted pistachios

Instructions

  1. If using frozen peas, place 1 cup in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment to thaw while you prepare the dumplings and asparagus, about 20 minutes. If using fresh peas, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add 1 cup shelled fresh peas and blanch until bright green and crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain and immediately transfer them to an ice water bath. Drain again and transfer to the food processor.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Snap the woody ends off 1 pound asparagus, then cut the stalks crosswise on a slight diagonal into 2-inch pieces. Place in a 9x13-inch or other 3-quart baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Toss to coat, then spread out in an even layer.

  3. Finely grate 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 packed cup). Place half in a medium bowl and half in the food processor. Finely grate the zest of 1 small lemon into the medium bowl. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice into the food processor (about 2 tablespoons).

  4. Add 15 to 16 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the medium bowl and stir to combine. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and stir to just combine; do not overmix.

  5. Use a size 40 (1 1/2 tablespoon) cookie scoop or 2 spoons to drop 16 golf ball-size portions of the ricotta mixture into the prepared baking dish, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart.

  6. Bake until the tops of the dumplings are firm and the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, smash and peel 1 small garlic clove, then add it to the food processor. Add 1/3 cup olive oil and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture comes together into a rough paste, about 30 seconds. Coarsely chop 1/3 cup pistachios.

  7. Divide the pea pesto among 4 shallow bowls and spread it out in a large, even circle with the back of a spoon. Divide the dumplings and asparagus among the 4 bowls, piling it on top of the pesto. Sprinkle with the pistachios.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.