Baked Ricotta Pepperonata with Herb Salad

Baked Ricotta Pepperonata with Herb Salad by Jeanne Kelley

Recipe excerpt from:
Vegetarian Salad for Dinner: Inventive Plant-Forward Meals

by Jeanne Kelley

Cooked salads are an Italian tradition. The salads are cooked during the cool hours of the day and served cool or at room temperature for lunch or dinner later. Classic Italian pepperonata is made of sautéed peppers, onions and herbs. In this version, I use sweet mini peppers and bake them until tender along with whole-milk ricotta. Top the summery ensemble with arugula, herbs and a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. Serve it with warm focaccia or crusty bread.

4 Servings

  • 15- 16-ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 pounds mini sweet peppers (box peppers), stem ends trimmed
  • 10 ounces (about 2 cups) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • ½ medium-sized red onion, cut into ½-inch thick slices
  • 16 pitted kalamata olives
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 cup arugula leaves
  • ½ cup basil leaves

Line a strainer with cheese cloth and set the strainer over a bowl. Carefully unmold the ricotta into the prepared strainer retaining the shape of the cheese. Refrigerate the cheese uncovered for 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Cut any peppers larger than your thumb in half. Toss the peppers, tomatoes, onion, olives and garlic with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or similarly sized pan. Make a space near the center of the pan. Carefully place the ricotta in the space and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle the pepper mixture and cheese with, oregano, red chili and salt and season with cracked pepper.Bake in the oven until the cheese and peppers are browned and the peppers are tender, about 30 minutes. Cool until warm. 
Just before serving, drizzle the pepperonata with vinegar and top with arugula and basil.