Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Spring Awakening with Gnocchi

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Spring Awakening with Gnocchi

Article excerpt

The first days of spring are heady times for the home cook.

With fresh greens, slender stalks of asparagus, sweet peas and snappy green beans arriving in produce aisles, and trips to a farmers market on the horizon, we get to trade winter's heavy comfort food for fresh, brighter fare. The birds are again singing in the morning and the sun is actually shining, inspiring us to think lighter and healthier in the kitchen.

Many of spring's best recipes are veggie-forward, and they often come in shades of green. It's the most common color in the garden, and is a symbol of the season's freshness and rebirth.

Pasta pairs especially well with spring vegetables, especially if you choose pillowy gnocchi.

If you've never made pasta from scratch, you might be wondering if it's possible to make homemade gnocchi without a nonna to guide you. Not only is the answer yes but also it's a fun way to involve your kids, or spouse, in making dinner.

You don't need any fancy equipment to make the plump Italian dumplings - just an even surface for rolling and a floured fork or inexpensive gnocchi board to create the pasta's distinctive ridges - and you can make a fairly large quantity in a short amount of time. Plus, it's a wonderfully tactile activity in that you mix, knead, roll and cut the dough with your hands.

I prefer making ricotta gnocchi over the traditional potato because the dough is so much easier to work with. Cooking potatoes for me is an exercise in frustration because I never, ever get the texture just right; the spuds are either overcooked and mushy, or too dry. And it's a tricky business figuring out how much, or little, flour you need to add because it's all about how the dough feels.

Ricotta gnocchi are so much more forgiving. You can pretty much master the technique on your first try if you can accurately measure ingredients. And the results are so light and velvety.

For this spring pasta dish, we pair lightly sauteed asparagus with crisp sugar snap peas and sweet peas. …

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