A lunch or light supper dish that's a favorite of cookbook author Deborah Madison.
To add a little heft while keeping things meatless, cook a cup of small pasta shells in boiling salted water, then drain them and add to the peas.
Adapted from Madison's "Vegetable Literacy."
1 cup top-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped whole-milk ricotta
2 to 3 tablespoons plain fresh breadcrumbs
4 teaspoons unsalted 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 peas in their pods, shucked (about 1 cup; may substitute 1 cup freshly shucked peas)
1/2 cup water
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to grate for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a small baking dish with a little oil.
If the ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the baking dish and drizzle a little oil over the surface; bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top.
Cover the surface with the breadcrumbs and bake for 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are browned and crisp, and the cheese has set.
(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 the cheese was not drained.)
When the cheese has set, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until the butter foams. Add the shallots and sage, and cook for about 3 minutes, until softened, then stir in the peas, water and lemon zest.
Cook until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should take 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook. Season with salt and a little pepper.
Divide the ricotta among individual plates, then spoon the peas over the baked cheese. Grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the top. Serve warm.
Per serving: 450 calories, 24 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 25 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar