Pesto & Ricotta-filled Asparagus and Radish Tarts

Spring is very much in the air. I can feel it, even if the garden still sleeps under a foot of snow.

The ice on the river near our place is breaking up and the tops of the trees in the yard have started to bud. Soon the sap will be flowing in the maples and we can tap their trunks for a new sugaring off season.

I’m anticipating the spring thaw as eagerly as my children awaiting their first batch of maple taffy on snow. It can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, Clara built another snowman on the first day of spring.

I warmed one of these tarts for my lunch while watching her play – they are like a promise of good things to come: our own baby radishes, local asparagus and the warm winds of spring.

I suppose these tarts are a variation off of the very popular Asparagus Goat Cheese Galette from the archives. I’ve use ricotta instead, livened up with a generous spoonful of pesto from my fall stash in the freezer. A bit of Parmesan works as well, mixed into the pesto, as does the original goat cheese. Really, just use what you have on hand.

These Pesto & Ricotta-filled Asparagus and Radish Tarts are individual, which is always fun, and makes a very pretty plated appetizer or a light lunch with a side salad.

Every year around Easter I find myself making a version of a small asparagus tart for brunch and decided to finally share the method. This year I’ve added radishes for that pop of colour, and also because I adore asparagus and radishes paired together.

A local shop carries frozen puff pastry already rolled and cut into ‘singles’ (very much the size of Kraft cheese singles) and that makes this kitchen project go even faster.

I also don’t cook the vegetables at all in advance as they roast up nicely in the oven. So now you are starting so see how quickly these tarts can come together. Open a jar of pesto, slice a few radishes, squeeze a lemon and we are on our way.

You can either make slits around the edges of the pastry squares and cross two corners over to make an edge OR just prick the square with a fork, leaving a 1/2-inch border (pictured below). Both sides will puff up nicely; the latter will look a bit more freeform and rustic.

When shaping the tarts, I find it always easier to work with slightly frozen puff pastry. The cuts are a lot cleaner and the dough is less floppy. Don’t worry if the pastry don’t look perfect; the tarts always bake up nicely in the end.

A generous smear of the pesto and ricotta goes directly on the puff pastry. This helps to ‘glue’ the vegetables in place and adds a delicious creaminess to a tart that would otherwise be dry (and boring, if I’m being blunt).

The spring vegetables are tossed with additional pesto, olive oil and lemon juice, for a touch of acidity. I then heap them up in the centre of the tarts and they are ready to bake.

I should note that the prepared tarts can go in the refrigerator at this stage and hold for up to 4 hours. This is helpful if you are entertaining for brunch, and want to bake them up hot for your guests.

I’ve made these tarts many times, and a very hot oven is the absolute best for achieving a flaky crust through and through. I bake them on a double lined sheet pan (merely two stacked on top of each other) to protect the bottoms from getting too dark.

I recommend serving these savoury tarts straight from the oven, preferably with an additional spoonful of ricotta and a squeeze of lemon. Heaven!

Spring may be taking her sweet time, but in the Simple Bites kitchen, these tarts are a reminder that winter will not last forever.


Pesto & Ricotta-filled Asparagus and Radish Tarts
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Recipe type: Appetizer
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Serves/Yield: 6 tarts
Simple, savoury tarts that are perfect for the spring season.
Ingredients
  • 6 squares of puff pastry, 4 1/2 inches square, 1/4-inch thick (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons pesto, divided
  • 6 Tablespoons ricotta
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch of thin asparagus, trimmed and washed
  • 6-8 small radishes, trimmed and washed
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the 6 squares of puff pastry on the sheet. They should be approximately 4 1/2 inches square and about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Now if you want to keep things really simple, you can just prick the pastry with a fork, leaving a 1/2 inch rim around the edge, or carry on for directions for the pretty edges. I find it easiest to work with the pastry while it is still slightly frozen.
  3. Fold one of the edges of the pastry square to the opposite edge to make a triangle. Leaving a 1/4-inch border, cut about ¾ of the way from the bottom of the triangle to the tip on both sides, making sure the cuts do not touch. Unfold the square. Brush the inner edges with beaten egg. Take the top flap and fold it toward the 2 cuts near the bottom. Then take the bottom flap and fold it toward the top edge. You will have a diamond shape. (This video shows the method simply) Repeat with all 6 squares.
  4. Mix 2 tablespoons of pesto with the ricotta and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper, then divide between the 6 tarts. Spread around the bottom of the tarts.
  5. Cut the asparagus into 2inch pieces. Thinly slice the radish. In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of pesto, teaspoon of lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well, then add vegetables and toss to coat. Season well, then divide among the tarts. Heap up the vegetables, pressing them into the ricotta.
  6. Place the pan in the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes (or may hold for up to 4 hours). Preheat oven to 400F.
  7. Bake tarts, rotating the pan occasionally, until dark brown and crispy, about 25-30 minutes. Serve hot with additional ricotta if desired.

 

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée’s preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars – Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. Karen Gold says:

    These are gorgeous! At which local store do you find the puff pastry squares, please? Thank you!

  2. I am wondering what i can sub for the puff pastry to make these gluten free? They sound wonderful!

    • I’m glad you like the recipe, Elizabeth! Unfortunately, I am not the best person to ask about gluten free options. As we are avid whole grain eaters, I do not text GF ingredients or develop any GF baking recipe. Maybe there is a forum online for this sort of thing?
      I really would love to help, but I don’t want to dish out uninformed advice. Thanks for reading anyway! And happy baking, as always.

  3. La Torontoise says:

    Aimee, love this recipe!! And have all ingredients in my fridge!! Will do it tonight!!
    Cheers.

  4. I love the look of these and am always on the hunt for something easy to make for a grown up lunch on the occasion that I’m hosting. These look great, esp the do-ahead part!

  5. These are lovely!!
    Also, I recently pre-ordered your new cookbook and can’t wait to get it. It will be another gem, I’m sure.
    Also, Aimee, you have mentioned in several places the recipe book your mother gave you. You have also pointed out dishes, tea cups, etc. that were hers. Since I have two sisters, I’m curious as to how that decision was made! It can be tricky.
    I sense so much love in your family, and you and your siblings seems to be so close. All talented cooks! I think you could collaborate on a cookbook: IN THE KITCHEN WITH THE WIMBUSH SIBLINGS! Yes??
    Happy Spring!

    • Hi Pam, thank you for your lovely comment. And wow! Thank you for the pre-pre-order! I’m thrilled. You won’t be disappointed.
      So in answer to your question….I don’t know exactly! My elder sister has moved around a lot, and has kept her belongings quite light and minimalistic. I’m more the collector, so I guess I got more stuff. Then my younger sister has only really had a house (with storage!) in the last few years, so perhaps she turned down my mothers items in the past.
      Lastly, because I work in food, and because I make an effort to preserve these family recipes and stories, I think my mum felt that my kitchen was the best place for these relics.

      My siblings and I ARE very close. And our favourite thing is cooking together. 🙂 I love your idea for my next book!

  6. Frédérique says:

    These look amazing! Mamie Clafoutis has frozen puff pastry pie rounds that I LOVE, i think i may make a big pie version of these on it with the asparagus arranged in a circle to look pretty! Would make a fantastic piece de resistance for Easter Brunch! 😉

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