6 Recipes for Light Dinner Dishes to Make in the Springtime

Even though it’s finally March, people are still hesitant to believe that spring is really right around the corner. Visions of snowstorms dance in their heads, but still consumers are starting to crave light, refreshing foods, even though the weather outside is trying to keep spirits at a comfort food low. But have no fear, because regardless of whether spring actually comes, or we just leap directly from winter to summer, spring produce is finally making an appearance, and these next highlighted recipes will put a spring in your step, even if the season shows up late.

Hot suppers are out and refreshing dishes are in. As the seasons (hopefully) start to change, channel spring with one of these 6 fresh and invigorating recipes that will draw you out of your winter hibernation.

1. Zucchini-and-Watercress Soup

Pea soup with chia sprouts

Zucchini and watercress soup | iStock.com

This zucchini-and-watercress soup from Food & Wine is the perfect light supper for March, as it’ll warm you up but still help you channel spring. Watercress is in season in the spring months and its flavor pairs perfectly with nutrient-packed zucchini in this healthy and handsome soup. Pick up 8 easy ingredients at the grocery store and enjoy soup while you still can.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 pound zucchini, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 8 ounces watercress, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and saffron threads and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat until the zucchini is tender, 10 minutes. Add the watercress and cook for 5 minutes longer.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onion, zucchini and watercress to a blender. Add the cream and ½ cup of the stock and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Gently rewarm the soup and ladle into bowls.

2. Spring Pea and Asparagus Pasta

spaghetti with peas and asparagus

Spring pea and asparagus pasta | iStock.com

Here’s another perfect spring recipe from Cookie and Kate. Asparagus is best consumed in the spring, and you should take advantage of English peas while you can, because their season won’t last for long! This spring pea and asparagus pasta is the perfect cross between winter comfort food and refreshing spring fare.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole grain pasta
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 5 shallots, quartered lengthwise and sliced very thin crosswise
  • 1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, woody ends snapped off, and cut in ½-inch slices on the bias
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen English peas
  • ⅔ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup roughly chopped mixed herbs
  • ¾ cup toasted pine nuts
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes

Directions: First, prep your vegetables. Then bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta for two minutes less than the package directions. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in your largest frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown

Add the asparagus and garlic, season with salt, and cook until the asparagus is knife-tender and bright green. Stir in the peas and cook until the peas are bright green.

Add the drained pasta to the pan along with 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss to coat. Cook until the sauce starts to coat the pasta. Remove the pan from heat and transfer its contents to a large serving bowl. Add the cheese and butter and stir to coat.

Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, herbs, and pine nuts. Taste and adjust seasonings as required. Grate some cheese over the top and garnish with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.

3. Citrus Greens Salad

Citrus fruits: orange, grapefruit

Citrus fruits | iStock.com

If you’re in need of some vitamin C after the brutal winter, try this Citrus Greens Salad from Joy the Baker. With pops of color from grapefruit, oranges, and avocado, this salad is as beautiful as it is healthy. Romaine lettuce is the bed of the salad, while citrus fruits are the stars, and tangy lemon juice ties it all together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 1 naval orange
  • 4 cups, shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced into cubes
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup very coarsely chopped salty roasted cashews

Directions: Slice all of the citrus. Cut the bottom and top of of each citrus fruit. Stand the fruit up on its bottom and slice down the fruit, removing all of the peel and as much of the pith as possible Once entirely peeled, turn the citrus on its side and slice into rounds. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss together lettuce, celery, parsley, half of the avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and half of the cashews. Toss well.

Arrange the citrus rounds on a round plate leaving space in the center of the plate for the greens. Add the tossed greens and garnish with the remaining avocado and cashew.

4. Spring Vegetable Pizza

Pizza with tomatoes, cheese, and asparagus

Pizza | iStock.com

If you need some pizza with your spring, try this pie from Martha Stewart. What this pizza lacks in tomato sauce, it makes up for in veggies. Asparagus, artichokes, and tomatoes make an appearance, as does Gruyere cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained well, reserving marinade, hearts quartered if whole
  • 1 large bunch asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces, and halved lengthwise if thick
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen and divided in half
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 7 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Directions: Preheat oven to 500 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, combine artichoke hearts, asparagus, and tomatoes. On a large piece of parchment paper, brush 1 dough half with artichoke-heart marinade and roll out to a 14-inch-long oval. Transfer dough on parchment to a rimmed baking sheet and top with half the vegetables, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with marinade and season pizza with salt and pepper. Repeat to make second pizza. Bake pizzas 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Sprinkle pizzas with cheese and bake until crust is deep golden and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Spinach Lasagna

Lasagna with cheese and spinach

Spinach lasagna | iStock.com

Spinach is another spring green, and this spinach lasagna from Chow is the perfect March dinner to celebrate the leafy greens coming into season. Enlisting three types of cheeses, fresh or frozen spinach, garlic, tomato sauce, and noodles, this recipe is easy, intuitive, and yields a perfect result every time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 container whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 boxes fresh or frozen spinach
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cans tomato sauce or jarred marinara sauce
  • 1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound whole-milk mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • Vegetable or olive oil

Directions: Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the ricotta, spinach, half of the Parmesan, the garlic, and the egg in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix until combined.

Spread ¾ cup of the tomato sauce in a thin layer over the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Construct the lasagna by layering 3 of the noodles over the sauce. Top with another ¾ cup of the tomato sauce and spread it evenly to the edges of the dish. Using a small spoon, dollop a third of the ricotta mixture evenly over the sauce and flatten the dollops with the back of the spoon. Evenly lay a quarter of the mozzarella slices over the ricotta.

Make 2 more layers of noodles, sauce, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella. Top with the remaining noodles, sauce, and mozzarella. Evenly sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Coat 1 side of a large piece of aluminum foil with vegetable or olive oil and cover the dish tightly with the foil, oil-side down.

Bake until the sauce is starting to bubble around the edges, about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned, about 20 minutes more. Remove the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

6. Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus, Peas, and Morels

gnocchi and a rolling pin

Gnocchi | iStock.com

Last but not least: a sophisticated dinner recipe from Bon Appétit. Make this dish for the next guests you’re trying to impress. Gnocchi studded with green asparagus and peas make this supper not only appetite-appeasing but also aesthetically-pleasing. Gnocchi is an indulgent dish every home chef can master.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups ricotta 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
  • ¼ pound fresh morel mushrooms
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives, finely grated Parmesan, and finely grated lemon zest

Directions: Line a baking dish with 3 layers of paper towels; spoon ricotta onto paper towels and let sit 20 minutes. Combine ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, and salt in a food processor; season with pepper and process until smooth. Add flour and pulse just to combine. Transfer gnocchi mixture to a pastry bag fitted with ½-inch round tip or a large resealable plastic bag.

Cook asparagus in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright green and crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a mesh strainer, transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool; drain. Slice asparagus on the diagonal into bite-size pieces, leaving tips intact.
Reduce heat so water is simmering. If using a resealable plastic bag for gnocchi mixture, cut a ½-inch opening in bottom of bag. Working in 3 batches, pipe dough into pot, cutting off 1-inch lengths with a paring knife and letting dough drop into water. Cook until doubled in size, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook morels, tossing occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add shallot and cook, tossing occasionally, until shallot and morels are soft, about 5 minutes; set aside.
Add gnocchi, asparagus, peas, butter, and reserved cooking liquid to skillet with morels. Cook, tossing gently, until vegetables are warm and sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with chives, Parmesan, and lemon zest.
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