This Pearl CousCous with Peas, Mint and Lemon Herb Ricotta is a deliciously flavorful dish that’s bursting with fresh herbs, creamy ricotta and bright citrus. It makes a great addition to your meal as an appetizer, side dish or main. Plus, it feels a bit fancy and is great for celebrating or entertaining!
Are you a pearl couscous lover? Ever since I tried it, it was love at first bite!
The texture is awesome, and it is so versatile in dishes like this where the components are 1) couscous 2) veggies and 3) dressing…and then the herbs and ricotta are toppings on the cake. Pearl couscous also absorbs flavors really well. So, if you put the dressing on when the couscous is warm, well….let me tell you. You’ll be headed straight to flavor town.
My other favorite pearl couscous recipes are here and here.
What’s great about this dish is that there’s SO many wonderful textures and flavors going on. Let’s start with the many textures: from the crispy pine nuts and creamy ricotta, to the soft and chewy pearl couscous and olives.
We toast the pine nuts to get a lovely nutty flavor and bit of a crisp. They provide the perfect crunchy topping for this pearl couscous. The dressing is lemony and tangy, with a bit of shallot and dijon mustard. Then we also top this couscous with creamy tofu “ricotta”.
What is Tofu Ricotta?
If you’ve never tried tofu ricotta, you’re in for a real treat! I was amazed at the texture and flavor that you can get by using tofu as the base for a “ricotta”. Plus, you can feel good about eating it by the spoonful, if you’re like me and want to dig in with a spoon straight into the food processor (hehe).
The base is, of course tofu. Then additions go in, and here you can get creative. I always use lemon, garlic powder, and salt. Plus, using marinated artichokes in here is a non-essential but very recommended addition.
The marinated artichokes work so beautifully in the ricotta to give it a gentle tang and depth of flavor that brings this much closer to dairy ricotta than otherwise, in my opinion. This tofu ricotta is filled with herbs and lemon, with additional flavor from marinated artichokes. I also love to add fresh parsley, and this version also has some fresh mint and basil as well.
For my Spaghetti with Vegan Tofu Ricotta recipe, we also use sun-dried tomatoes in the ricotta, and it’s SO good that way also.
In a food processor is the easiest way to make the tofu ricotta. You can use either firm or extra firm organic tofu. Make sure to drain the tofu and squeeze the tofu very well between paper/kitchen towel to remove moisture. You can do this by squeezing with your hands, it works perfectly.
Then, simply add in the other ingredients and pulse repeatedly until all the ingredients are at least chopped. You can continue pulsing to go finely chopped, as I do here. There’s no need to pre-chop the ricotta ingredients. I love that about this tofu ricotta — it’s just so simple and fast!
How this Dish Comes Together: Pearl CousCous with Peas, Mint and Lemon Herb Ricotta
The ingredients and instructions look a little long for this one, but don’t worry. This recipe is still simple and most of the steps are going at the same time (and you won’t need to juggle a bunch of pans). You’ll need a small-medium saucepan for cooking the couscous, and a small skillet or saucepan for the toasting the pine nuts and cooking the peas.
Start by toasting the couscous in a bit of oil in one pan, and toasting the pine nuts (without oil) in the other pan. This toasting step will need some babysitting, but it should be done in around 5 minutes. It will seem like nothing is happening for minutes, and then they’ll start to toast fairly quickly. Stir them around every so often to avoid them burning. This goes for both the couscous and pine nuts.
Have your water or broth ready to add to the couscous when it’s sufficiently toasted. The couscous cooks while you remove the pine nuts from their pan (set them aside for later) and then use that same pan to steam / boil the peas.
Meanwhile, add all the tofu ricotta ingredients into the food processor and pulse until well combined.
Add all the dressing ingredients into a cereal bowl and whisk together. Chop some olives and fresh herbs, and you’re ready to combine everything and serve!
The za’atar seasoning is optional but adds great flavor. The one I’ve linked to is delicious in this recipe and adds a really lovely depth. You can learn more about this delicious Middle Eastern spice blend here. With thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, this seasoning is so versatile and you may find it addicting!
I use some additional fresh lemon juice for serving (there’s almost never enough lemon juice in my book hehe!).
If you try this recipe, please let me know! You can comment here or tag me on Instagram @janetsmunchmeals! Wishing you a great day xoxo.
Pearl CousCous with Peas, Mint and Lemon Herb Ricotta
- 1 cup pearl couscous uncooked
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup peas
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives
- 1 tbsp. extra chopped fresh parsley, basil and mint for serving
- Juice of 1/2 lemon for serving
- 1 tsp. za'atar seasoning optional
- 1/2 of a 14 oz. block firm or extra firm tofu pressed well to remove water
- 1 1/2 tbsp. (packed) fresh parsley
- Juice of 3/4 lemon
- 1/2 tsp. nutritional yeast plus more to taste, if desired
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. garlic powder to taste
- 1/4 cup (packed) marinated artichokes, drained
- 2 medium-sized fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 tbsp. (packed) fresh mint
- 3-4 tbsp. olive oil start with 3 tbsp. and add another tbsp. if desired
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tbsp. agave
- 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped shallot can substitute red onion
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
- In a small saucepan, add the pearl couscous and the 1 tsp. oil. Turn on medium heat and "toast" the couscous, stirring periodically and watch carefully to avoid burning. This process takes 3 to 5 minutes. Have 1 1/4 cups of water (or vegetable broth for extra flavor) ready to add.
- Toast the pine nuts while the couscous is cooking, by placing them in a small skillet over medium heat. You can do this process while you're separately toasting the couscous in the saucepan, as both will need watching carefully / periodic stirring to avoid burning, and they take around the same amount of time to toast.
- When the couscous has toasted, add the water (or broth) and the 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and cover. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer (covered) for around 5 to 6 minutes (go according to package instructions).
- Separately, steam 1/3 cup of frozen peas. You can do this in the microwave (peas + water) or on the stove. Check your package instructions for cooking.
- While the couscous and peas are cooking, drain and squeeze excess water from the tofu using kitchen / paper towels (gently squeeze the tofu between the towels with your hands). Then place the tofu into the food processor along with the other Tofu Ricotta ingredients. Gently pulse until everything is incorporated / chopped.
- Whisk the Dressing ingredients together in a bowl.
- In a serving dish, place the cooked couscous, peas, olives and around half of the dressing. Mix together and add more dressing until desired amount is reached. Stir in the za'atar seasoning, if using.
- Just before serving, you can add more dressing (and/or a generous squeeze of extra lemon juice), and the extra finely chopped fresh herbs. Then top with large dollops of the Tofu Ricotta and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the dish.