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Easy Gnocchi with Peas, Bacon & Mint

Light as air these ricotta gnocchi with peas is easy to make. I finish them with bacon and mint so the flavors are full and diverse, making the airy texture all the more exciting. After a week of cooking my mother’s recipes followed by a cocktail that took me a couple of days to recover from, I am happy to say I am back in the kitchen cooking my own stuff.

I say my own because I did not follow a recipe here. Instead, I applied what I learned from my Tyler Florence cooking experience last month and adapted the process for this version of gnocchi. The notes I took during both exercises became the recipe you see here. I am particularly proud of this recipe. I also like the photo very much.

Gnocchi with Peas

That’s because I spent the weekend honing my blogging skills at CampBlogaway. This photo Gnocchi with Peas represents a few new food styling tricks I picked up from Denise Vivaldo. Most importantly I learned the importance of treating my garnishes with as much love and precision as I do the stars of the plate. Garnishes can also be used to artfully hide small flaws and even help guide your eye through the frame. Not that there are any small flaws on this plate… or at least any you can see! If you want to pick up some of these tricks yourself you can because Denise has a book on the art of food styling coming soon called The Food Stylists Handbook. You can pre-order it by CLICKING here. I plan to.

 

Bola Valpolicello Wine Pairing by Grant HenryBut first, let’s talk gnocchi. As close as I can figure gnocchi (pronounced nee-O-key) means “little lumps”. One look at a proper gnocchi and you can see why. But they did not call them little potato lumps so I figure there is room for extemporizing. Which means, in my opinion, there is no reason to strictly limit myself little lumps of potato, semolina or even ricotta dough.

And beyond that, it seems there are two schools of thought on gnocchi. They can be chewy or they can be pillowy. In my opinion, they both have their place on my plate. Traditionally the chewier varieties are potato based. The dough is drier and easy to roll out. Their light as air cousins often starts out life as ricotta. They are more difficult to handle. But handled well they reward you with little pillows of luscious texture.

And while the little-lump concept lends itself to improvisation,  the actual shaping of the potato gnocchi is a precise craft. Marcella Hazan has a wonderful method and warns us that despite the name “gnocchi should be anything but lumpish”… I don’t know, maybe etymology is not her strong suit…

But I do like her process for molding the perfect gnocchi. But keep in mind that she is discussing the doughier (usually potato) style of gnocchi. She directs us to divide the dough into several parts depending on how much dough you made, your goal is baseball sized. Each part should be rolled out into one-inch thick ropes and prep work for pea ricotta gnocchisliced into 3/4 of an inch long “lumps” There’s that word again!

Now comes the critical part: “Take a dinner fork with long, slim tines, rounded if possible,” she writes. “Working over a counter, hold the fork more or less parallel to the counter, with the concave side facing you. With the index finger of your other hand, hold one of the cut pieces against the inside curve of the fork, just below the tips of the prongs. At the same time that you are pressing the piece against the prongs, flip it away from the tips and in the direction of the handle. The motion of the finger is flipping, not dragging. As the piece rolls away from the prongs, let it drop to the counter. If you are doing it correctly, it will have ridges on one side formed by the tines and a depression on the other formed by your fingertip.”

Now all this is great advice and when followed precisely you will indeed attain perfect gnocchi. But the amount of flour and the working of the dough creates tougher glutens that are indeed a bit chewy in the end. And there is nothing wrong with that. Because potato gnocchi is usually boiled and served with rich sauces like pesto, sage butter, Gorgonzola or a butter-enriched tomato sauce.

But ricotta-based gnocchi dough is much lighter. It should not be worked too much because you will lose the pillowy texture you are looking for. The very best way to form the dumplings, in this case, is with a teaspoon or scoop. I personally prefer a small 1 1/2‑inch cookie/ice-cream type scoop. The result is a more free-form ball of gnocchi, but the texture will be light and lovely.

Gnocchi with Peas, Bacon & Mint serves 8 as a first-course CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1 c whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 1⁄2 c freshly shelled peas
  • 2 T kosher salt
  • 2 c loosely packed parsley, leaves only
  • 1 t fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 T fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 t finely textured sea salt, plus more as needed
  • 1⁄2 t white pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1 1⁄2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c parmesan, finely grated, plus more for garnish
  • 8 slices thick cut bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/4‑inch strips
  • 1 T unsalted butter, plus more as needed
  • 1⁄4 c chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • mint leaves, both torn and whole to taste
  • very good olive oil for drizzling

Drain the ricotta well by placing it into a cheesecloth lined stainer set over a bowl for at least 3 hours.

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and water. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt along with the peas. Cook the peas about 3 minutes, then add the parsley leaves and stir to combine. Cook another 30 seconds then drain and quickly add the peas and parsley to the prepared ice bath to stop their cooking. Once completely cooled drain them well and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture 3 or 4 times, then puree about 15 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and process another 15 to 20 seconds.

Transfer the puree to a large mixing bowl, add the salt, pepper, thyme, minced mint, drained ricotta, and egg yolks. Mix well. Add the flour and Parmesan cheese to the bowl and fold the mixture gently to incorporate. Do not over mix, a slightly streaky mixture is fine.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a teaspoon or a small scoop form the dough into 1‑inch balls and drop them one by one into the boiling water. Do not overcrowd them, work in batches. They should float to the top when fully cooked, about 4 minutes. Transfer them to a parchment lined sheet as they finish cooking. They may be made ahead to this point up to one day.

Heat a large skillet or fry pan over-medium high heat. Add the bacon slices and cook until browned, but still a bit chewy in texture. Transfer to a paper towel lined plated to drain. Pour off some of the rendered bacon fat so that there is about 1/4‑inch left on the bottom of the skillet. Retain the extra bacon fat. Add butter and chicken broth and reheat the skillet.

When ready to serve lightly brown the gnocchi with the bacon fat and chicken broth mixture, tossing often to coat. Season with salt and white pepper. Work in batches if necessary adding more reserved bacon fat, butter, and chicken broth as needed. Transfer the warm gnocchi to a serving platter or bowl. Toss the reserved bacon pieces on top and garnish with Parmesan, mint leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.

SERIOUS FUN FOOD

Greg Henry

SippitySup

Gnocchi with Peas

Gnocchi with Peas