Crispy Gnocchi with Fresh Peas and Bacon

What do you call it when you have to go the bathroom really badly?

A “pee-mergency”!

And, if you go in the bathroom American and you come out American, what are you while you are in there?

You’re a pee-ing! (European)

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Hahaha. Good ol’ potty humor. It never gets old, does it? Or then again, does it? Maybe, just maybe, these jokes are only funny coming from the mouths of my 4, 7, and 9 year old kids. Ok, let’s be honest – and my 35 year old kid, er, I mean husband, as well. (This is why when people ask me, “Don’t you want to ‘try’ for a boy?” I can honestly answer, “No way – I already have one!”)

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Ok, back to pee. Or better yet, the pea. I’m not kidding when I say that in early June our home seemed to be in a “state of pea-mergency” as we tried to harvest all the garden peas before the heat got too much for them (and us). We quickly learned that pea stands for pick every afternoon to keep the plants producing.

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So, for a far too brief season (a mere 3 weeks!), we kept picking, the peas kept coming, and we kept eating, especially this dish of crispy gnocchi with fresh peas and bacon. Here gnocchi (or gnudi as they’re also called) are made with ricotta rather than the traditional potatoes. Rather than the usual boiling, they’re sauteed in brown butter until golden, brown, and delicious, and then tossed with a pea and bacon sauce. Kinda makes all the picking and shelling worthwhile – and then some.

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You may find yourself in a “pea-mergency” when you use all your fresh peas and want, no, need to make this again. I think this will work with frozen ones but what’s the fun in that? No picking, no shelling. Ah, yes, the fun is the eating. And eating this doesn’t get old.

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Crispy Gnocchi with Fresh Peas and Bacon

adapted from Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen by Michael Symon

Ricotta Gnocchi or Gnudi

  • ¾ cup (3.5 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • grated zest of 1 lemon (save lemon to juice for sauce below)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta*, drained overnight
  • 1 large egg

*Symon prefers sheep’s milk ricotta (more body and tang) but since I couldn’t find it around here, I used his suggestion to mix fresh goat chese into cow’s milk ricotta to give it more depth. I put it in a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and let it sit overnight in the chill chest.

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Fresh Pea and Bacon Sauce

The original recipe calls for mushrooms rather than bacon, and it’s good like that as well. To make this vegetarian, simply substitute morels or shiitakes for the pork. Saute them until soft (about 2 minutes) in 4 tablespoons of butter when you begin the sauce. Or live on the wild side and use both mushrooms and bacon! Just don’t forget the peas. I upped the pea quantity significantly because I like them and had fresh ones to use up. You can also substitute orange for the lemon in the both gnocchi and sauce.

  • ¼ pound bacon or pancetta, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups shelled fresh peas (frozen works in a pinch)
  • 12 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (left whole)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the gnocchi dough, combine the flour, parmesan, lemon zest, and salt in a bowl. Add the ricotta and egg. Mix well with a wooden spoon or your fingers until the dough just comes together. Be careful not to overwork the dough or it’ll end up tough. Tough gnocchi = yucky!

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Scrape the dough onto a well-floured work surface and pat into a rough square. Cut the dough into thirds using a bench scraper or knife. Gently roll each piece into a foot-long rope, about an inch in diameter, flouring as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. Place the dough ropes onto a lightly floured plate or rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 5 minutes and up to 2 hours.

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After the dough has rested, return the ropes to a floured surface. Cut each rope into ½-inch pieces with a bench scraper or knife and set aside while you start the sauce.

For the sauce, cook the bacon bacon in a large saute pan over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 5 minutes. (Pour off some of the fat if your pork is especially greasy. You’ll want about 2 tablespoons of fat.) Add the shallot and garlic, sweat for 1 minute, and then add the lemon juice.

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Increase the heat to medium, add the peas, and saute just until the peas brighten in color. Remove the pan from the heat and fold in the parsley and 2 tablespoons butter. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary, though you shouldn’t need much, if any, because the bacon adds a natural saltiness to the sauce. Turn off the heat and set aside while you saute the gnocchi.

To finish the gnocchi, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan large enough to accomodate all of the gnocchi without crowding. When the butter becomes brown and fragrant, add the gnocchi to the pan and cook, turning as necessary, until they’re browned and crisp on all sides, 5 or 6 minutes.

Pour in the pea and bacon sauce, turning to coat. Add the remaining tablespoon butter, the parmesan, and the 2 tablespoons of water while turning the gnocchi. Allow the sauce ingredients to emulsify and form a silken coating, 1 to 2 minutes. The sauce should cling to the gnocchi. Spoon the gnocchi and sauce into shallow bowls and serve immediately. Feel free to lick the pan and serving spoon. We did.

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