Before 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 pancetta
- 3 sprigs of asparagus per person, ends trimmed
- A handful of pine nuts
- Torn basil, to serve
- Grated parmesan, to taste
- 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.
- In a large saucepan, bring water to the boil. Add the gnocchi, and boil for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the pine nuts to the asparagus, and toast until lightly browned.
- Drain the gnocchi, return to the pan, and stir through the pesto.
- Plate up the gnocchi, arranging the asparagus, pancetta and pine nuts on top. Top with parmesan and the torn basil, and serve!