Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta

This year we started a monthly optional bonus challenge at Tyler Florence Fridays. In addition to the recipes we choose to make each week, our co-host Megan, from My Baking Adventures, selects a recipe than anyone who is interested can make and post during the month. Megan definitely has Italian food on her mind, the first recipe was for calzones, and February's pick was Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta.

Now I love a good gnocchi, but to me gnocchi has always been one of those things I think is best left to experts. There are people out there who really do it well and I believe they should be the ones making it, so I have avoided it, (much like the plague). Another reason I never tried making it is that it appears to be one of those things that has a high "PIA' factor" (That would be "Pain in A**" factor for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this scale). Being basically lazy and lacking in patience, things I have to fuss over, with a high PIA factor, are not generally things I usually like to make. Also just read the recipe: you get all done forming all those gnocchi, you have made the ricotta cream, prosciutto is crisping and oh, by the way..."Note:  If the gnocchi start to feather and fall apart in boiling water, you need more flour.  If the gnocchi don't float after 2 minutes and are hard, you used too much flour." Sorry sucker, better luck next time! You just spent an hour baking the potatoes and over 40 minutes making the little gnocchi pillows--now do it all over. (A smarter person or one who actually read the note at the bottom of the recipe sooner would probably argue that you could make a few and test them first, but that didn't happen here). None the less, the winning combo of Tyler and Megan, combined with trying to set a good example as a TFF co-host, had me spending my afternoon yesterday immersed in the wonderful world of gnocchi, (only ever so slightly) cursing Megan under my breath.

Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta
Tyler Florence

Potato Gnocchi:
2 pounds (about 4) russet potatoes, or similar starchy/white variety
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 egg white
1 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 pound prosciutto
1 large shallot, finely diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Grated Parmesan
2 cups Lemon Ricotta, (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Scrub potatoes, pierce the skin with a fork, drizzle with olive oil and salt and place on a sheet pan. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are easily pierced with a pairing knife. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly then peel the potatoes while they are still hot and press them through a potato ricer. Put the potatoes in a large bowl with salt, nutmeg, baking powder, grated cheese and egg white. Add the flour a little at a time and mix with your hands until the mixture forms a rough dough. Do not over-work the dough. 

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead the dough for 1 or 2 minutes until smooth, adding a little bit more flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking. Break off a piece of the dough and roll it back and forth into a rope, about the thickness of your index finger. Cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece down the prongs of a fork while pressing a small dimple with your finger in the back. The gnocchi should be slightly curved and marked with ridges. This will allow the pillows to hold sauce when served. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Boil the gnocchi in batches in plenty of salted water. The gnocchi are done about 2 minutes after they float to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon. Reserve about 1/2 cup cooking water. If not cooking immediately, place the gnocchi in a single layer on a baking pan dusted with flour.

Note: If the gnocchi start to feather and fall apart in boiling water, you need more flour. If the gnocchi don't float after 2 minutes and are hard, you used too much flour.

Blanch peas in hot water and set aside. Place 4 strips of prosciutto on a sheet pan and place in a preheated 350 degree F oven. Cook until the bacon is crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Add chopped shallots to a pan over medium high heat with 2 counts of olive oil pan of and gently saute until fragrant and translucent. Dump in the peas and toss gently to coat. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add boiled gnocchi to the pan and gently toss. Add a ladle of gnocchi water to the pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter, sprinkle with Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with crispy prosciutto and a scoop of fresh lemon ricotta. (Optional: finish with a drizzle of white truffle oil)

Lemon Ricotta:
2 cups good quality ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Place the ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl and add the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and serve with the gnocchi.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Notes/Results: My gnocchi was a bit soft but the dish had great flavor. As nervous as I was about making this, I didn't make a lot of "healthy" adaptations to the recipe, focusing mainly on portion control (and PIA control), by making a half batch. I did use a partial skim ricotta, reduced the Parmesan and increased the amount of peas but otherwise left it pretty much the same. I am glad that I cut the recipe in half because forming double the amount of gnocchi may have put me over the edge. There was some anxious moments waiting for the first gnocchi to rise from the boiling water, and much joy when rise they did, some a little soft around the edges, but the vast majority very much intact. I originally was going to leave out the lemon ricotta because I have never been a huge ricotta fan but it really makes the dish. Finally, although I did try to clean as I went, a few more (mild) curses were uttered (sorry Megan!) as I cleaned up the many dishes. Overall, I will most likely continue to order my gnocchi at a good Italian restaurant rather than attempt it again, but (yes Natashya!), I am glad I tried it and I learned from the process. (I didn't love the process and Max, who came to watch on the stepladder in the doorway, found it quite long and boring).

All things considered, it made a very tasty dinner and I still love Megan, (But if she picks an easy Tyler recipe next month I won't complain and will love her even more!).

Stay tuned for my other struggle this week--making meringues in Hawaii for Barefoot Bloggers tomorrow and back to our regularly scheduled (low PIA factor!) TFF pick on Friday.


  1. Bah ha ha ha ha ha! Thanks for the laugh - I am going to make my gnocchi today or tomorrow - there may or may not be cursing involved.

    I'm glad you tried them - AND LIKED THEM!

    I promise next months' recipe will be easy and healthy.

  2. Yours are so perfectly uniform! Mine vary in shape and size with every one. And yours really seem to have held their shape well.
    Great job! (Even though you may never make them again.)

    ps, the word verification is finge, does that mean that Fringe is on tonight?

  3. Oh wow, great job! I'm nervous about these, planning on doing them tomorrow, and I will be following your lead with the half batch. I loved reading about the PIA factor, you are so funny, and I totally know what you mean about enjoying the learning process about a recipe but not really wanting to mess with it again :)

    p.s. Max is too cute!

  4. love gnocchi and have tried making it with sweet potatoes. I agree it has a PIA factor, or as my cousin says PITA (pain in the ass) factor. love the combination that you used!

  5. Hey there Deb, I think your gnocchies look wonderful. I must say I've never had one and would love to try them, but making them is another story. My frustration level is rather low. Maybe I'll just wait until I go to Hawaii someday and yu can make them for me. :)

  6. Gnocchi are one of the things that I most fear making, largely for their time-consuming-ness. But I WILL do it...someday. When I have my own kitchen. They look great though!

  7. Wow! I am impressed! You are a braver woman than me!

  8. You are definitely brave. I tried gnocchi once, and I was shaking the entire time. I think about trying again all the time.

    Your experience is a good inspiration!

    ;) amy


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