Bacon and Pea Gnocchi
We often visit State College, PA (Town of Knowledge and Penn State Football) to visit my wife’s parents and her sister Judy who is an excellent home cook and someone you will see me write about often.
On a visit a couple of months ago Judy told me about her neighbor’s son who was just starting his own Italian import business and was having an open house for friends and family next door that weekend. Of course I wanted to go over and see what was available. I found lots of my favorite Italian treats including imported Gnocchi with potato and pumpkin.
What are Gnocchi?
The word gnocchi is Italian for dumplings and they are sort of like a cross between a dumpling and pasta. The gnocchi I purchased were 70% mashed potatoes, wheat flour, pumpkin, seasonings and a preservative.
They are shaped like little balls or tiny loaves of bread, are solid and make an excellent side dish or main dish when served with a hearty sauce. You can make your own homemade gnocchi but it is a time consuming process.
Just like making your own homemade pasta, the results are fantastic but who has the time during the week. I would like to try and make a bunch of gnocchi with my kids one weekend. We could make up a lot of them, have some for dinner and freeze the rest.
I prefer to find a really good quality commercial brand like the ones I purchased in State College and you can probably find in your supermarket or Italian specialty store in your area. I will do some research and see if I can find a good source online.
What to Serve With Gnocchi?
What’s great about Gnocchi is you can think of them as a substitute for mashed potatoes and serve them with pot roast, braised short ribs, or even ossobucco. On the other hand, you can think of them as pasta and serve them with many of your favorite pasta sauces like I did in this recipe.
What is Pancetta?
Classically, this sauce would be made with Pancetta, Italian bacon that is cured but not smoked. I used regular bacon because that’s what I had in my refrigerator.
You can find Pancetta in most supermarkets these days, but unless you are making a lot of Italian dishes, you are not going to use it enough to justify buying it when plain old bacon will to the job.
However, if you don’t mind the extra expense, go for the Pancetta. You will love the flavor and you can always portion it out, wrap it up tightly and freeze what you don’t use.
Gnocchi with Bacon & Peas Cream Sauce
- Peel and slice the onion into rings and separate them.
- Mince the garlic and cut the bacon lengthwise and then into 1½ inch strips.
- Thaw the peas anyway you like and grate the Parmesan.
- Assemble the rest of the ingredients and you are ready to go.
- Start by heating up a large pot of water for cooking the gnocchi. You don't want the sauce ready and have to wait for the gnocchi to cook although they don't take but 2 minutes to cook.
- Heat your sauté pan over medium-high heat to get it hot.
- Add the oil and butter to the pan and when the butter is melted and hot, add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and continue sautéing for another minute.
- Add the bacon and cook for 3 - 4 minutes until the bacon doesn't have that white fatty look any more. You don't want the bacon crisp, just cooked through.The down side of using bacon over Pancetta is the bacon takes longer to cook but if that's what you have available, what the heck.
- Add the chicken stock to deglaze the pan, stirring up any of the bacon bits that may be sticking to the pan.
- Add the cream and then the peas. Simmer for 3 - 4 minutes and you will notice the sauce start to thicken.
- Right after you add the cream you want to start cooking the gnocchi. They only take 2 -3 minutes to cook but by the time you cook and drain them the sauce will be finished.You will know when the gnocchi are done because they float to the top of the water.The trick to preparing any pasta dish with a great sauce is getting the timing down so everything is done at the same time.
- Add the drained gnocchi to the sauce along with the Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. Give it a gentle stir and cook to warm up and incorporate the sauce with the gnocchi.
- Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.