June 9th, 2014

Roasted Ruby Beetroot Ricotta with Pan-fried Asparagus and Broad Bean Salad

This recipe celebrates early summer and light eating and it is not only pretty to look at but pretty tasty to eat too! I very much enjoy eating and cooking with ricotta as it takes me back to my younger years when I spent a little time in Italy. The taste of fresh ricotta remembered from those happy days still ‘rings in my mouth’ as sound would ring in your ears. The freshness and utter simplicity smacked me right between the eyes. All you needed for a simple lunch or antipasto (before some more spectacular dishes emerged from the kitchen) was a good helping of fresh ricotta, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with good-quality extra virgin olive oil and served with warm crusty bread. Delizioso!!

The ricotta that we buy here in the UK is not quite the same, but it’s perfectly delicious and is good enough for me to bring back many happy memories. I recommend not buying half-fat or low-fat ricotta because the taste is just not the same. If you are going to eat and enjoy it, it is best to buy full-fat ricotta and only eat half the amount.

This recipe is ideal for a starter or light lunch, served with fresh crusty bread.

For the roasted ruby beetroot ricotta

  • 200g raw ruby beetroot (2–3 medium beetroot), washed
  • 1 clove garlic, peel left on and crushed
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 25ml olive oil
  • 250g ricotta
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the pan-fried asparagus and broad bean salad

  • 25ml olive oil
  • 2 bunches of asparagus, tough ends of the stalks removed, each spear cut in half
  • 250g (podded weight) fresh broad beans, podded
  • 100g mixed salad leaves
  • 50ml classic vinaigrette

For the roasted ruby beetroot ricotta, first roast the beetroot. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Place a large piece of foil on the work surface, then place the beetroot, garlic and thyme in the centre, sprinkle over the oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil parcel tightly to enclose the beetroot, place on a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 1 hour. The beetroot is cooked once it’s soft to the touch and you can insert a small, sharp knife easily.

Remove from the oven and leave the beetroot to cool in the foil for 2 hours, then unwrap and peel away the skin. Discard the garlic and thyme. Place the beetroot in a blender and blend until smooth. Mix the puréed beetroot with the ricotta, season to taste and then chill until needed (see Cook’s Note).

For the salad, heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and pan-fry the asparagus spears, with salt and pepper added, over a high heat until golden brown and almost ‘charred’, this should take around 4–5 minutes. Transfer the cooked asparagus to a tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.

Meanwhile, cook the broad beans in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and immediately refresh in cold iced water. Drain again, then pop the bright green beans out of their outer skins (discard the outer skins).

Toss the pan-fried asparagus, broad beans, salad leaves and vinaigrette together in a bowl, then lightly season to taste.

To serve, spoon the roasted ruby beetroot ricotta onto serving plates and make a well in the centre of each portion, then pile the salad into the wells, dividing it evenly between the plates. Serve with crusty fresh bread.

Serves 4

Cook’s Note

The roasted ruby beetroot ricotta can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.


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