Gnudi for my Foodies with Peas, Bacon & Mint

Gnudi is fun to say, don’t ya think? Basically it’s gnocchi twice the size. Which is also fun to say. But are gnudi twice as fun to eat? Well, I leave that for you to decide. Because these light as air pea and ricotta gnudi are easy to make too. Easier than gnocchi, because it’s a little less fussy in the forming of the little pillows.

This dish is pretty on the plate as well. Peas make it a super seasonal recipe. I like to finish this with bacon and mint so the flavors are full and diverse, making the airy texture all the more exciting.

But before I get to the gnudi recipe though, 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 to 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 start out life as ricotta. They are more difficult to handle. But handled well they reward you with little pillows of luscious texture.

Bola Wine PairingAnd 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 sliced 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 are 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. Which is why I prefer the larger and simpler version known as gnudi (kind of like ravioli filling). They don’t test my skills with the tines of a fork, because the very best way to form these dumplings is with a teaspoon or scoop. Plop, right into the water. I personally prefer a small 1 1/2‑inch cookie/ice-cream type scoop. The result is a more free-form ball of gnudi, but the texture will be light and lovely. GREG

Pea Gnudi with 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 sli 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

Pea Gnocchi BatterDrain the ricotta well by placing it into a cheese cloth 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 sauce pan 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 to 1 1/2‑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 in 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 gnudi 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.

Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining forThe Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in PanamaCosta Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or atHomefries Podcast Network.

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  • Look for Greg’s book Savory Pies coming Nov 2012, from Ulysses Press