Ricotta Gnocchi with Guanciale, Fava beans, Peas & Chanterelles

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!

Ricotta Gnocchi w/ Guanciale, Fava Beans, Peas & Chanterelles
(serves 4)
  • 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!
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  • Uncle Dee

    my god you did it again. another kick ass recipe. if I can get ingredients like these around here, I wld probably try most of your recipes!

  • Manggy

    Omigosh, that is one beautiful dish. I’ve only had gnocchi once in my life and I loved it! But I’m afraid I might be serving up lead pellets if I attempted them. Too bad ricotta is so expensive here though (says the guy who just bought mascarpone), I hope I can sub in something else!

  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    I love this dish! I always wish somebody would make me a dish like this, but I guess I have to make it myself one of these days. Bookmarking this recipe. Thanks.

  • Mochachocolata Rita

    i love gnocchi…heavy ones, lighter ones…browned ones…all of them! i’d bathe in a tub full of gnocchi ^_^

  • Claude-Olivier

    avec une attaque pareil comment ne pas lire tout le billet ?!? t’es fort, comme d’hab! et cela a l’air trè bon..bon j’amène le vin, tu fais à manger, ca te va ? Ciao

  • Clumbsy Cookie

    I so want to sleep on those pillows!
    I’ll pretend I believe you when you say you “love to give them rough exterior markings”, you lazy you! I know you didn’t want to bother, lol! Seriosly the dish looks great, love the colors!
    Hope you’re surviving with all your peaches and cherries!

  • Mary Coleman

    beautiful, zen, simply beautiful!

  • canarygirl

    OMFG. If I wasn’t already married, I’d want to marry this food. Screw it…I still want to marry this food. May I ask you for it’s hand?

  • Ann

    YUM! So gorgeous!

    But you must work in a well-air conditioned kitchen, no? Or do you just have the cook’s tolerance for heat? I can’t even think about making something that involves the oven AND boiling water AND cooking on the stovetop.

  • Elle

    Oh my God. Those look incredible! Want. Some. Now! Yep. For breakfast. Lunch, too, and possibly dinner, as well.

  • doggybloggy

    now I am on a bacon cheek quest….this looks so good I can smell it!

  • Giff Constable

    OK this looks truly fantastic. Can’t wait to try it.

  • farida

    I have never made gnocchi in my life although we make stuff that is similar to this, but still different. your gnocchi looks and sounds delicious. I should give it a try one day.

  • My Sweet & Saucy

    Everytime I come here it is a lesson in cooking….you are truly amazing! Your dishes get me each time!

  • Peter M

    Chef’s in da haus and I’m hungry for gnocchi and that Guanciale…pork manna.

  • dp


    On my last trip to Italy, I looked for guanciale, but it wasn’t widely available where I was staying (smaller town). I have heard people sing its virtues, and I’ve been told that’s the proper meat to use for spaghetti alla carbonara.

    BTW, I checked out Mario’s recipe. I would love to try making it if I can get a hold of fresh jowls. BUT, I noticed he doesn’t use any curing salts, just the kosher and the sugar. I’m feeling iffy about hanging meat to dry for 3 weeks without using curing salt. What do you think?

  • Chicopea

    Awesome job Zen-ster!

    I never thought about gnocchi without sauce before. The fava beans look like cousins of edamame :)

  • glamah16

    I want it all.What can I bribe you with to cook me some?

  • Christine

    You definitely need smell-o-vision! I have yet to make gnocchi. This recipe will serve to be my first. Bravo!

  • Adam

    Can we have the gnocchi for breakfast? That’s champion quality right there. The brown crusty outside with the bacon… oh man I can hear the ladies swooning.

    Enjoy Batman… and you’re damn right, we should get paid for this, it’s hard work being awesome.

  • Kirstin

    I’ve never seen ricotta gnocchi so freakin’ smooth! Must be the addition of the potatoes and a magic, loving touch. My ricotta gnocchi with just ricotta and flour look like bubbly lumps. Of love. But bubbly lumps just the same. I’m definitely trying this one.
    Tocai Fruilano or Gruner Vetliner?

  • Kevin

    Now that looks like a tasty way to serve gnocchi. I like all of the green in it

  • We Are Never Full

    ok zenman….

    where the F did you buy the guanciale? i’ve been looking all over for it. i’ll kill you if you don’t give it up (imagine a toy gun to your head – got it?).

    this looks fabu. great choice to pair the ‘lighter’ ricotta gnocchi w/ the heavy and mucho porky guanciale.

    now, don’t forget to tell me where you got the guanciale!!!

  • Tartelette

    OMG! I’d give my polka dot bikini to find guanciale here! Love it! The gnocchi sound wonderful…ah if only I were in your neighborhood!

  • cakebrain

    I simply love gnocchi but you have taken it to new heights with your guanciale pork-fat goodness. Chanterelles are such a swishy addition too…these elements make my gut swoon with desire!

  • Jenny

    What a gorgeous looking dish. The little gnocchi, can those be shipped, you know I’m not tackling those puppies!

  • Emiline

    They really do look light and delicious….like little pillows.

    I’ve never heard of Guanciale before. It sounds amazing! Hog jowl is popular in this area, so I’ve tried that…but it’s smoked, so, I don’t know how it compares.

  • Darius T. Williams

    I’ve never even heard of guanciale – but I’m gonna have to look that one up here in Chicago. That dish looked awesome. I did some gnocchi a few weeks ago with a brown butter basil reduction. But yours looks like it was awesome!

    Great job!


  • Nicole

    This is gorgeous! And sounds so delicious. I am with Emeril on the pork fat thing so while I have never heard of this guanciale, I have no doubt I would love it!

  • Helen

    Gorgeous. I am loving the idea of rhe ricotta gnocci and I’ve never heard of guanciale – a new ingredient to look out for. Fanstic.

  • Ginny

    looks amazing! I love ricotta gnocchi and the way you prepared it looks great!

  • foodhuntress79

    Immeasurable pork jowls sleeping in my walk- in freezer… no kidding! it’s haunting me in the twilight zone. haha. thanks for the great idea and i did look at batali’s recipe but now the problem is where to dry all of it. 😉

  • cook eat FRET

    i have guanciale in my freezer so i am definitely, but definitely making this soon. stay tuned because it is SO happening. yes it is. mark my words. love this one. perfection. mmmm….

  • peter

    Funny timing; just this morning I packed 4 jowls in 2 different cures: three in the traditional mix, and one with 5-spice, togarashi, ginger, and cardamom for an Asian variation. I’m lucky to have an excellent butcher.

    This looks great; in 45 days I will try it.