The simple fix These cheesy bites are a doddle to put together and children will love them

It is sometimes hard to guess which dishes my children will love and which they will reject. I tried these dumplings on them recently, thinking that the girls might not take to them – courgettes are the bitter enemy in our house. How wrong I was. Little, light cheesy bites, rich in green vegetables and swimming in a garlicky, rich and quick tomato sauce, these are delicious, healthy and inexpensive. If only feeding children was always so easy.

Ricotta, courgette and spinach dumplings with tomato sauce

These delicate balls freeze well, so make double the quantity and stash half for later.

Prep 30 min
Drain 30 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 6

For the dumplings
500g ricotta
225g courgette, coarsely grated
250g spinach leaves
65g grated parmesan
2 eggs
125g plain flour,plus extra to dust
1½ tsp flaky, or ½ tsp fine sea salt
Black pepper
50g butter, to serve

For the sauce
8 large ripe tomatoes (or 2 tins drained plum tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red-wine vinegar
1 big handful basil leaves
Brown sugar (optional)

Drain the ricotta for at least 30 minutes to remove as much excess water as possible.

Put the courgettes in a large sieve or colander suspended over a bowl. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and blanch the spinach for one to two minutes, until it has collapsed. Pour the spinach water over the grated courgettes to wilt it, then leave both vegetables to drain in the sieve. When the vegetables are cool enough to touch, squeeze out the water, dry on kitchen paper, chop finely and put in a bowl. Add the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, flour, half the salt and plenty of black pepper, and mix well with a fork or wooden spoon and adjust the seasoning, to taste .

Dust your hands and a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper with flour. Mould the dough into golfballs – keep dusting your hands in more flour or the dough will stick to you. Lay the balls out on the tray, then refrigerate while you make the sauce.

If using fresh tomatoes, score the top of each with an X and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave for 30 seconds, then drain. Peel the skin and roughly chop the flesh.

Gently fry the garlic in the oil in a small pan over a medium-low heat until it begins to turn pale gold, then add the chopped tomatoes and vinegar, to stop the garlic burning. Season, simmer for 10-15 minutes until thick, then tear in the basil. Add a few pinches of brown sugar if the tomatoes taste flat.

Once the sauce is ready, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. When the water is simmering, cook a few dumplings at a time until they float to the surface, then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Once the dumplings are all cooked, heat a wide frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter. Baste the dumplings in the butter until hot and glistening. Spoon the warm tomato sauce on to plates or shallow bowls, then top with the dumplings. Grate over a little extra parmesan and serve.

And for the rest of the week

The tomato sauce is incredibly versatile for barbecued summer vegetables or meatballs. Play around with the herbs and spices in the dumplings – cinnamon and mint, or chervil and dill are both great combinations. I like to add capers or sage leaves to the butter in which I am basting the dumplings.

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