Ricotta Gnocchi with Peas and Pancetta

13 Sep

This week I’m judging the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA) Awards, so I’ve been trying some fantastic activities that were finalists in the Culinary Tourism Experience category.

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I have a real soft spot for Prince Edward County with its white sand dunes, honour system  farmer stands and tiny churches peeping up between the vineyards, so I was thrilled to to go there and take a gnocchi- and risotto-making class with chef and cookbook author Cynthia Peters at From the Farm Cooking School.

Cynthia’s heritage farmhouse kitchen is my dream kitchen, with its hardcore propane range and charming Mennonite wood oven. There around a dozen of us whipped up two batches of potato and ricotta gnocchi, rolling armadillo ridges into them on wooden butter pats and gnocchi boards so that they’d hold their sauce. Cynthia had us make risotto too–something that seems intimidating, but is really rather easy–and soothing too, with all that slow stirring. And there was apple cake for dessert. As much as possible we used County ingredients in every dish.

We ended our morning seated at the harvest table and eating together. Chopping veggies, rolling dough and stirring pots are all great ice breaking activities, so there was an easy flow to the conversation.

I’m pretty sure that most people went home to nap after our carb fest, but I had the chance to hang out with Cynthia, who drove me to local farms where everything from heritage tomatoes to kumquats grow and I had the chance to sip pine-infused vodka, sparkling apple cider and late-harvest wine along the way.

Some of the From the Farm Cooking School packages combine this type of tour with kitchen time; you gather ingredients from farmers, vintners and cheese makers before transforming them into a meal. What a fantastic way to get to know the locals when you’re on vacation!

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Where to Stay: Angeline’s Inn and Restaurant, Bloomfield, Prince Edward County.
A newly renovated heritage house with a funky, art-filled rooms and suites, farm-to-table menu and excellent local wine list.
Tel: 613-393-3301.

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Photo: From the Farm Cooking School

Gnocchi
1 container of whole milk ricotta (475 g)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 1 1/4  cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 large egg, beaten slightly in small bowl
4 tablespoons of chives, finely chopped

Drain Ricotta cheese with a strainer over a bowl before using.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, keeping 1/2 cup of the flour for later. Mix together with hands until it forms a ball. Put dough on a wooden board and sprinkle with the remaining flour, and knead for a few minutes only. Should be a little sticky.

Break out into four balls, about a handful. Roll into ½ inch thick ropes on a floured surface (use the rest of the flour here), and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Roll into small balls. With the palm of your hand, gently roll each ball off on a gnocchi board, into an small log.  This process will give you the ridges, or use the back of a fork. The board works best though. The ridges enables each piece to catch the sauce better.

Sprinkle a platter with some flour and place the gnocchi on it until ready to cook. (place in the fridge at least 15 minutes, up to 6 hours to set before cooking).

Sauce
½ cup diced pancetta or bacon ends (less fat)
1 tablespoon olive oil (if little fat from bacon)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
¼ cup onions, finely chopped
1 cup fresh peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large fry pan over medium heat, cook the diced pancetta till crisp. Remove from pan and place on some paper towels then in a bowl.

In the same pan, add the oil if required, the garlic and onions and cook for 5 minutes till soft. Place in the bowl.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and place the gnocchi, about 20 at a time, in the water. When they rise to the top, they are cooked. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place in the same fry pan, add in the butter.

Sauté the gnocchi till lightly golden, and put on a warm platter till all the gnocchi is cooked (about 3 batches). Return all the gnocchi in the warm fry pan with the bacon and vegetables and heat through, for about 5 minutes.

Plate and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

8 Responses to “Ricotta Gnocchi with Peas and Pancetta”

  1. Alison September 13th, 2012 at 10:49 AM #

    Love making fresh ricotta gnocchi. I like to add a touch of freshly ground nutmeg and finely grated lemon zest…could go for a bowl right now, actually!

    • Valerie Howes September 13th, 2012 at 9:25 PM #

      Lemon zest is a great idea. I’m going to experiment with that next time round.

  2. Voula Halliday September 13th, 2012 at 11:21 AM #

    Cynthia and her kitchen are one of the great wonders of local food heritage and she embraces the traditions of sharing great knowledge and recipes that celebrate our terroir. I had the pleasure of working with Cynthia when she was writing her book The Art of Herbs. Her recipes connect us to the landscape and the people that support her local food system.

    Your blog has made me hungry for a meal just like this! I’m off to the kitchen–inspired again by the lovely adventures of Val Howes.

    • Valerie Howes September 13th, 2012 at 9:24 PM #

      Thank you, Voula! I agree, Cynthia is doing a fabulous job.

  3. Milena September 13th, 2012 at 3:03 PM #

    Gnocchi is my absolute fave!

    • Valerie Howes September 13th, 2012 at 9:23 PM #

      I hope you’ll try making it, Milena. So tasty!

  4. Pompous culinary student September 14th, 2012 at 5:51 PM #

    I love how people are so misinformed by such a prestigious magazine read worldwide! People dont know what theyre truly missing out on and they should! Real Gnocchi is made of potato, you simmer it in its jacket till it just about splits, peel it, rice it, and mix it with desired filling and then your flour and egg you need to bind it. The starch in the potato is the true secret ingredient in this little gnocchi we all know and love!

    • Valerie Howes September 14th, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

      We made potato gnocchi with Cynthia too; it was lovely, but this one was the class favourite. Ricotta gnocchi is made widely in Italian kitchens, especially in Tuscany. Definitely worth trying.

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