Tired of gnocchi so heavy that gangsters could use them in place of lead boots? I have good news for you…
Ricotta gnocchi is the lighter, hipper cousin of the more traditional potato gnocchi found in Northern Italy, he’s kind of the cool kid on the block and the star on our plate today. Ricotta gnocchi are often described as little ‘clouds’ or ‘pillows’ but don’t let the name fool you… those are badass gnocchi my friends! You’ll notice on the pictures I didn’t shape these little nuggets of love to give them rough exterior markings. That’s because they aren’t served in a sauce and will be sauteed to a nice golden brown instead. Crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. What more does one need?… err..hmm…Okay, whoever answered bacon gets 10 brownie points!
In the role of supporting actor comes Guanciale, bacon second cousin. Ahh, Guanciale is sheer poetry my friends and will give an enormous amount of porkiness to your food. It’s a sort of unsmoked bacon made by drying the meat from a pig’s jowl or cheeks (guancia means cheek in Italian). It can be a bit challenging to find depending on where you live. Try your local salumeria or make your own in your home basement if you have… err.. 45 days to spare!! (Mario Batali makes his own at Babbo by the way, click here for recipe).
If you do find some… Oh my God!.. and I mean… Oh my God! This stuff is ridiculously awesome, if you thought nothing could beat bacon, think again. I guarantee you’ll sing karaoke to “Meat of Kings” after just one bite. Some fellow pork lovers might even want to wear it around their neck… because it’s THAT good! Don’t sweat it if you can’t find it though, just substitute pancetta or good ol’ bacon. It works too.
The rest of the cast is a combination of some beautiful seasonal vegetables, chanterelles sauteed in pork fat, garlic, a handful of fresh herbs like chervil and chives to round-up the flavors. The gnocchi are sauteed until golden brown and tossed with the rest of the ingredients. A touch of reduced balsamic vinegar drizzled on the plate gives the dish just the right balance of sweet-and-sourness. Here you have it friends. Enjoy!
- 2 pounds large boiling potatoes
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 8 ounces, guanciale, bacon or pancetta, cut into lardons
- 2 cups mixed fava beans, peas, asparagus tips, cleaned and blanched
- 1 cup chanterelles, cleaned and blanched
- 2 tablespoons mixed herbs, preferably chives and chervil
- 1 tablespoon reduced balsamic vinegar
- Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender. Drain and peel them while hot. Cut the potatoes in quarter, place them on a baking tray. Dry them in a preheated oven to 400’F for 5 minutes and push the potato through a ricer.
- Mix the potato with the flour, sea salt, white pepper, egg, and ricotta cheese. The mixture will be like a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm.
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil (you don’t need to salt the water). Shape the dough into long cigar shapes about 1/2-inch thick and cut into 1 inch ‘pillows’ with the back of a knife. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain them well and place on a baking sheet to dry.
- Meanwhile, cook the guanciale in a large pan until crisp. Discard most of the fat and add the chanterelles and cook until they start to caramelize on the edges. Add the peas, fava beans and asparagus and garlic. Cook for 30-seconds more and set aside. Check for seasoning.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and lightly fry the gnocchi until gold brown.
Toss the gnocchi into the guanciale/mushroom/vegetable mixture and toss well with the fresh herbs.
Serve with a drizzle of reduced balsamic. Enjoy!