I love peas. They are nature’s superior answer to fast food, popped straight from the shell into the mouth. No plastic packaging, no coloring nor additives. I also enjoy them cooked, but in our house they rarely last long enough to make it to the cooking stage. When I do manage to put some aside, I love to purée them and serve as an accompaniment to shellfish, or keep them whole, tossed into pastas and risottos. This torte has a little of both. Fresh peas are cooked in butter with shallots and then divided. Half remain intact and the other half are puréed with ricotta to form the base for this colorful springtime egg dish.
Spring Pea and Ricotta Torte with Lemon and Mint
The unmistakable sweetness of the peas is amplified by cooking and can overpower the eggs and ricotta, so I like to balance their sweetness with tangy lemon zest, lots of salty Italian cheese and fresh mint. This dish may be served warm or at room temperature. I find that by letting the torte cool to room temperature, the flavors mellow and smooth into each other in a very appealing way.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
2 cups shelled peas
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup finely grated young Pecorino cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9 inch springform pan and wrap bottom with foil to prevent any leakage. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened, one minute. Add peas and 1 teaspoon salt; sauté briefly to coat. Add water or stock, and cook until peas are tender and liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer half of the peas to a bowl of a food processor; puree. Add ricotta and nutmeg; pulse to blend. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in creme fraiche, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheese. Stir in remaining peas, mint, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Pour eggs into prepared springform pan. Sprinkle top with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake in oven until edges are golden brown and center is puffed and cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.