I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting appetizers to cook. What usually ends up happening is that I invite some people over for dinner, especially over the weekend, and then when it comes to planning the menu, the starter is always the part where I struggle the most. I don’t know why, but I never know what to serve as soon as the guests arrive. What’s going to be the easiest recipe to whip up? You have to take that into account especially because we’ve just spent so much time on the main course, the sides, the drinks and the dessert. The appetizer is always the last component for me to figure out. I usually have an “oh crap (not really it’s usually an adult word but my mom reads this so crap it is) I forgot all about the starter moment. What am I going to make?” The great thing about these Cheers to the Weekend posts is that hopefully I’ll be able to help out in the party/gathering appetizer department. For all those of you out there that are just like me when it comes to weekend dinner parties, let me help you out. Let me make your menu planning a little easier by throwing some new and exciting appetizers into the mix.
One of my favorite cookbooks is Date Night In by Ashley Rodriquez from Not Without Salt and in that book she has an amazing recipe for Crostini with Ricotta, Prosciutto and Peas. It’s out of this world. It’s a much larger crostini so I wanted to create a smaller, bite-sized version of it for parties. My family isn’t a big fan of peas, so I decided to pull a fast one on them by creating a pea pesto instead of having whole peas on the crostini. Call me a trickster because it worked and they love the crostini. I’m determined that when I have kids I’ll make this Pea Pesto Crostini for them and they’ll love it because they won’t know that it’s made of peas and when they’re older I’ll tell say to them, “PYSCH! You fell for it! Hahahahaha! You’ve been eating peas all your life!” And I’ll laugh in their face and they’ll cry and it’ll be awesome. That’s what parenting is all about, right? I’m sure it is. As always, let’s all Cheers to the Weekend…and make kids cry.
All great crostini or bruschetta starts with good crusty bread. You want a crisp exterior and a soft somewhat chewy interior. The first thing we should do is toast those baguette slices. Lay the slices out on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle the tops with olive oil. Place in the oven until golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes.
**Tip: You can also toast the slices by placing them under the broiler for about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Just make sure you keep a close eye on them so that they don’t burn!**
While the crostini cool, let’s make that pea pesto. Now, I’m so used to classic pesto. I love it. My mom and sisters love it. Somehow though that isn’t enough. I couldn’t just stop there. So I’ve turned a bag of thawed out frozen peas into one of the most delicious spreads or dip you’ll ever eat. It still has some of the same components of traditional pesto that we’re used to.
Combine the thawed peas, basil, garlic, pistachios, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a food processor, and process until completely smooth. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly.
**Note: It’ll take a bit for the mixture to come together, but have no fear it will. Just let the machine run on high until thick and creamy.**
Transfer the pesto to a bowl, top with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit more pistachios for garnish. At this point you can serve it at a party along with some veggies and crackers for dipping and dunking, or you can set it off to the side until ready to use it for the crostini.
**Tip: You can make this pesto up to 3 days in advance. Just wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.**
In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, grated garlic, salt and pepper until evenly combined. This will be another layer in our delicious crostini so set it off to the side until you’re ready to assemble.
**Tip: As with the pesto, you can mix this together a few days in advance and store it in the fridge until ready to use. The longer it sits, the more flavorful it will be!**
To assemble the crostini, spread the toasted baguette slices with some of the pea pesto and top with the lemony garlic ricotta mixture. You don’t want to over crowd the bread, so about a tablespoon of each on top will do.
Top each with a piece of prosciutto or speck and a few walnuts that have been roughly chopped. If you’re allergic to walnuts, feel free to use pumpkin seeds or pistachios, since we used it in the pesto. If you’re allergic to all nuts in general, or just don’t like them in your for (don’t laugh, I know a few people who experience that), then feel free to omit them altogether. The nuts are mostly there for texture.
It’s best to assemble this crostini right before you plan on serving them to your guests. Since they’re so small, the pea pesto and ricotta could cause the toasted bread to get soggy. Who likes soggy bread? I know I definitely do not. They’re also great because they’re served at room temperature and outside of the bead, you really don’t have to cook anything. Quick and easy party appetizers? Count me in.
I like to finish these off with a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. I always feel that when it comes to dishes that require little to no cooking at all, it’s best to enhance their flavors as much as possible. This is the moment when you take out that really expensive finishing olive oil and use that very coarse fancy salt. The simple ingredients really take the dish over the edge.
If you make this recipe, along with any other recipe from the site, be sure to snap a picture and share it on Instagram or Facebook and tag me and hashtag it with #CandidAppetite or #TheCandidAppetite. Once you start making these Cheers to the Weekend recipes, be sure to also tag it with #TCAweekend! I’ll be monitoring it all closely and share my favorites throughout! Happy Cooking!
- 1 (8-ounce) bag frozen peas, thawed
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 small lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons pistachios
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup ricotta
- 1 garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 French baguette, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 ounce thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into pieces
- ½ cup walnuts
- coarse salt and coarse black pepper for topping
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- To make the pesto, combine the peas, basil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, pistachios, olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until completely smooth. It'll take a few minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, garlic, lemon juice, and pinch of salt and pepper until smooth.
- Lay the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toast in the oven until lightly golden brown. To assemble the crostini, spread each toasted bread slice with pea pesto, ricotta, a piece of prosciutto, and a few walnuts. Drizzle them with olive oil and top with coarse salt and black pepper. Enjoy!