gnocchi with asparagus and pancetta

IMG_8624Before making this, I’d only ever had gnocchi once before, and I didn’t like it all that much. It was drenched in a sweet, brown sauce. The sauce was overpowering, and totally distracted you from the gnocchi and other components of the dish! You couldn’t get away from that sauce very easily. I was quite put off after that. But then I found out that gnocchi doesn’t necessarily need a heavy sauce – it goes just as well, and if not better, with Italian simplicity. I tried it another time, and completely changed my mind! It’s actually quite delicious.

Gnocchi is a sort of pasta, made with potato, flour and egg. If you’re in Rome, it’ll probably be made with semolina flour; usually supermarkets stock a variety from buckwheat flour. Gnocchi are tiny little dumplings, shaped into ovals. You can have a go at making them from scratch, but from a packet they are just as good! If you buy a dry-cupboard variety, they’ll last for months – and when you are ready to use them, they only take 2 minutes to boil. It’s incredibly versatile. It’s often used as a starter, scattered with breadcrumbs and cheese and baked in the oven. But like the recipe below, it can also be lightly tossed in pesto for a  quick supper. It’s also a fantastic accompaniment – a replacement for ordinary pasta or potatoes to crisp pan-fried fish. They might be little, but they are tasty, and most definitely filling. A small pack usually says it “serves 3” – you might read in disbelief, but once you’ve eaten a few, you’ll realise you were wrong!


  • 1 pack of gnocchi
  • 2 dessert spoons of pesto
  • 1 pack of pancettaIMG_8622
  • 3 sprigs of asparagus per person, ends trimmed
  • A handful of pine nuts
  • Torn basil, to serve
  • Grated parmesan, to taste


  1. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat, and add a little oil. Add the pancetta and asparagus, and sauté until the asparagus has softened slightly and the pancetta is beginning to brown.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring water to the boil. Add the gnocchi, and boil for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the pine nuts to the asparagus, and toast until lightly browned.
  4. Drain the gnocchi, return to the pan, and stir through the pesto.
  5. Plate up the gnocchi, arranging the asparagus, pancetta and pine nuts on top. Top with parmesan and the torn basil, and serve!

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