Thursday, May 22, 2014

For The One I Love - Gnocchi Piselli + Spring Herbs & Brown Butter

Today's spring pasta dish came to be thanks to an impromptu date night my husband and I had last week - a lovely evening dining at a charming, rustic Italian restaurant called Peasant in NYC's Nolita. While I savored an exceptional plate of cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sweet sausage, the mister was enjoying some very fluffy potato gnocchi with seasonal greens, fresh, plump spring peas, herbs, and a touch of rich brown butter. 
                                                   I was inspired. 

Gnocchi Piselli With Mint, Parsley & Brown Butter, Photo: NK

Our date continued with a long stroll through the West Village past some old haunts and even the church where we were married nearly four years ago. 
Photo Credit - Cody Raisig Photography

Whether it was the warm breeze or the waning glow of late spring sunlight barely hanging on at dusk, the evening, at least for me, was kinda magical. Pleasant thoughts of how so much can change in a short time frame flooded my mind, along with nervous apprehension for the new and exciting chapters that lay ahead. But most of all, I found myself silently giving thanks for the person I was walking beside, the special guy reliving all these great memories with me, block by block.  

One bag of gnocchi later, and I was ready to create something springy and delicious as an homage to that memorable night, and of course to feed my favorite diner, who by this time was looking a bit forlorn with hunger. Lucky thing that this meal would be ready in about 15 minutes! I had decided to play off the deliciously simple Italian comfort classic that my mom used make me all the time - Pasta Piselli, or pasta with peas (and sometimes ham or pancetta), one of many happy food memories made possible by my mother. 

I hope you enjoy my Gnocchi Piselli with Herbs and Brown Butter. It's sort of a rustic, hand-minced, deconstructed pesto that includes bright green peas and a little brown butter rather than oil. My husband helped me come up with what I think is the pretty clever move of flash-warming the frozen peas as you drain the pasta water through a colander (resulting in even more time savings).  To finish, I added a smattering of pignoli nuts plus some grated Parmigiana cheese. And there you have it - Delicioso! if I do say so myself.

Gnocchi Piselli With Spring Herbs & Brown Butter
Serves 2  
1/2 Pound Potato Gnocchi (or pasta of your choice! Orecchiette works well) 
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1/4 Cup loosely packed Mint Leaves + more for garnish 
1/2 Cup Loosely packed Parsley
1 Cup Frozen Organic Peas
1 Tablespoon toasted Pignoli Nuts, Optional
Grated Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese, Optional 
Salt & Pepper 

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the Gnocchi. 

2. As the water boils set 2 Tablespoons of Salted Butter into a medium sauté pan over medium flame. Allow butter to melt undisturbed until it becomes golden and brown solids begin to form. Swirl it carefully and turn off the flame.

3. Combine Mint and Parsley on a cutting board and chop them into the finest mince you can muster. Practice those knife skills!

4. When water comes to a boil add the Gnocchi and allow to boil until the Gnocchi float to the top of the water. Time the cooking, and two minutes before the Gnocchi should be done, add the Frozen Peas! They will unfreeze and tenderize in the pasta water. 

5. Set aside a little bit of pasta water in a cup, then gently pour finished Gnocchi and Peas through a colander in your sink. 

6. Next, put a very low flame under the pan with the brown butter. Carefully pour the Gnocchi and Pea mixture over the brown butter. Sprinkle all over with the minced Parsley and Mint, and toss the pasta gently until evenly coated with butter and herbs.

7. Add a few shakes of Salt and some Black Pepper.

8. Plate the Gnocchi and top with optional add ins such as: a sprinkle of toasted Pignoli Nuts (or Pistachios would be great too) and grated Parmigiana Reggiano. Garnish with Mint Sprigs and enjoy!

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