Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Parisian Gnocchi with Pea Pesto

I've made gnocchi a bunch of times. There are basically two different kinds that I do. Potato and the French style using pâte à choux.

The potato gnocchi are more common in that you can buy them at the store and those are, admittedly, not terrible. Albeit a bit more dense than homemade, but not bad at all. The homemade ones are far superior in flavor and texture.

Parisian gnocchi on the other hand are never seen at the store. You can't really buy these outside of a restaurant but they are SO good! They're lighter and have a different texture than potato gnocchi and in my opinion have a more complex flavor.

Parisian gnocchi go well with a variety of preparations. Here, we're going to do a bright pea and basil pesto that's outstanding.

Parisian Gnocchi with Pea Pesto
(from here & here)

1 cup (8 ounces) water
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (about .15 ounces) kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (6.3 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

Pea Pesto:
One whole head of roasted garlic
1 tablespoon fine lemon zest (from one whole lemon)
½ cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup fresh parsley leaves
1 cup thawed frozen peas (or fresh if you happen to have a garden)
1 cup olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper


Begin by weighing out your pâte à choux ingredients:

1 cup of water (8 oz).

Add 4 oz of butter.

I actually used a mix of bacon fat and butter here as an experiment. I know it's "bacon sacrilege" to suggest otherwise, but using all butter for this recipe is actually better in my opinion. I think the solids in the butter give the finished gnocchi a little more body but this turned out perfectly good so feel free to experiment.

To the fat and water add 3/4 teaspoon (about .15 ounces) kosher salt.

(My scale only has a tenths digit so I went with about .2 oz)

Put this over high heat, going for a boil while you weigh and gather the rest of the ingredients. It shouldn't take too long to boil. 

Weigh out your flour:

1 1/4 cups (6.3 ounces)

Next, weigh out 1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) freshly grated Parmesan cheese:

Measure out 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard:

Gather 3 large eggs. Let these sit at room temp while you cook everything. 

And finally, 

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

Give them a good mince.


OK! Let's do this.

Once your butter/water mixture reaches a boil...

Dump the flour in all at once and get ready to stir with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula. I like the silicone ones.

(I should be stirring but I took the picture)

Go, go, go!

Once the dough becomes a bit more uniform, drop the heat to medium/low.

This shouldn't take more than 60 seconds.

Keep stirring until all the raw flour is gone. No little white bumps. The dough will pull away from sides of pot leaving a thin layer of dough.

Again, not more than maybe 60 seconds.

Evacuate to your stand mixer.

You can do this by hand, beating everything until uniform, but it's a huge pain. Use a mixer.

Add the tablespoon of Dijon mustard and the ounce of cheese.

Start the mixer with the paddle attachment over medium/low speed.

Really blurry but you get the idea.

After the mustard and cheese have been combined, add each egg one at a time.

Wait until fully incorporated until adding the next egg.

Mix, mix, mix:

Mix, mix, mix:

Mix, mix, mix until completely uniform.

It'll be nice and satiny.

Finally, add the herbs.

Give it a final mix to incorporate them in.

Get a ziplock bag and invert the opening around your hand.

We'll be using this as a pastry bag.

Just fill it up and move the dough to one corner.

Squeeze most of the air out and let sit for 15-25 minutes at room temperature.


While the gnocchi dough rests, we can prep some stuff for the pesto.

We're going to roast off a whole head of garlic.

If you've never done this it's really easy and roasted garlic is amazing. Buttery, sweet, and sticky and only barely garlicky. It's really nice.

Just slice the top off of a head of garlic. Make sure you expose the tops of each of the cloves.

You're supposed to peel the excess paper from the head here. I forgot to. It worked out fine anyway.

Place the head in a small piece of foil that's large enough to completely envelop it.

Drizzle with a splash of olive oil (really just a little, maybe 1/4-1/2 teaspoon) and sprinkle a pinch of salt on it.

Cover with the foil and ensure the head is sitting cut side up.

I just put it in a small oven safe pan. You can do this on a baking sheet or whatever. 

Bake for 40 minutes at 400F. 


This meal can be pre-staged really easily so I started making the gnocchi while the garlic roasted off. They will keep until service just fine.


Get a gallon of water over high heat for a boil. Add some salt, 1-2 tablespoons, to season.

Get a sheet pan drizzled with olive oil at the ready. I used cling film to make clean-up easier because I'm lazy like that.

Measure out 1/2 cup of fresh parsley:

1/2 cup fresh basil:

We're going to blanch the herbs in boiling water, so you can do this with a small strainer or a large fine slotted spoon or something.

I have a fine mesh strainer that fits fairly well into my pot of water.

You can just boil them and dump the water if you want, but I was going to use the water for the gnocchi, so I didn't want to re-boil it.

Get an ice bath ready.

Place the herbs in the boiling water for 30 seconds.

Pull after 30 seconds. The herbs will have wilted considerably:

Shock immediately in the ice water.

I could fit the very bottom of my strainer in the ice water.

Once chilled, squeeze all the water you can from the herbs:

Very wilted.

Put the herbs into a blender and stand by.


Now that our water is boiling we can cook off the gnocchi.

We're actually par-boiling them since they will finish in the pan later.

Cut the tip off of the bag.

This opening is too small.

I took these pictures and didn't retake them as the process is exactly the same, but you want to cut about 1/4-3/8s inch off the end. This is a bit less than that and the gnocchi were like mini versions of themselves, which I fed to the kids.

Regardless of size, get over the pot of water (it'll be hot so be careful) and start squeezing.

Have a paring knife ready to cut at 1 inch intervals. I couldn't take pics of this because I needed both hands but just slice them off into the water and be mindful of splashing.

You'll get the hang of it quickly.

Cut as many off as you can in 60 seconds. This will allow them all to cook in time.

Don't cheat, you'll just get overcooked gnocchi!

They'll all sink to the bottom at first. 

Once about 50% start to float, start your timer for 2 minutes.

I like how my kitchen is 103F while I cook.

They'll all be floating by the end of 2 minutes.

Fish them out with a slotted spoon or something and ready the next batch.

(these are the larger ones):

Place on the oiled baking sheet and make sure they roll around a bit to prevent sticking to each other.

This is the size difference between the smalls and the larger ones to give some reference.

Keep this process going until you are out of dough.

1. Cut as many as possible in 60 seconds
2. Wait until 50% are floating
3. Time 2 minutes
4. Remove
5. Repeat



You can store these in the fridge until service.


Your garlic should be done by now. 

Look how caramelized and delicious that looks.

To get the garlic out just squeeze the whole head!

Squeeze it directly into the blender.

You can thaw the cup of peas in warm water if you like to speed up the process. 

Next we'll zest a lemon.

A microplane is invaluable for this!

Zested lemon.
Add the zest to the blender.

Next add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Finally add the thawed (and drained) peas, 1 cup.

Measure out a cup of extra virgin olive oil.


Now some action!

Get the blender running at medium speed scraping down the sides until you get the whole thing going smoothly.

Up the speed to 75% and slowly drizzle the oil into the blender.

It'll get nice and lubed. 

You can make this as coarse or fine as you'd like. It'll never be really super duper smooth and I think it's better with some texture to it.

Just get it thoroughly combined until it's the texture of a standard pesto.

We'll be serving this room temperature so you can save it for service.

Just pour into a bowl:

Drizzle a bit of olive oil over top:

Then, place cling film directly on the surface of the pesto, removing all air from the surface to prevent oxidation.

You can store in the fridge or on the counter, whatever. Just get it up to room temp before serving or it'll be too cold.


Ok, homestretch!

When you are ready to fire off dinner, get a large non-stick pan over medium heat and add a good drizzle of oil. I did two turns below.

You'll have a bunch of gnocchi so just fill up the pan. 

This is roughly 2 servings.

Cook, shaking the pan frequently until they expand a bit and just start to brown.

I've overcooked these a few times in the past by going for "golden brown and delicious" but the texture is weird when they get too brown, almost chewy on the outside, not the best.

These will be ever so crunchy and still super light and smooth if you get them just browned.

Note: You can add a handful of peas here and should! I had these really nice fresh English peas all ready to go and totally spaced out and forgot to add them!

Just add the peas get them cooked through while the gnocchi finishes.

This whole process will take maybe 5-7 minutes.

You can add a final chunk of butter if you're feeling decadent to finish the gnocchi, but I didn't feel like it was necessary this time around.


To serve, just add a bit of the pesto to a plate (again, room temp) and place the gnocchi directly from the pan (oil/butter and all) on top.

Garnish with some shredded basil and some extra parmesan if you're feeling it.


This is one of my favorite dishes. It's a bit of work making the whole dish, but it makes up for it in the end.

The gnocchi are light, slightly crisp and salty and almost melt in the mouth. The pesto is nice and fresh and the acid from the lemon zest really cuts the fattiness of the gnocchi perfectly. The peas (if I hadn't forgot them) add a nice texture and pop of sweetness to the dish that's very nice.

I could eat plate after plate of this and would happily buy it at a restaurant.

If you've got a special occasion coming up, try this on. It'll surely impress!


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