Meyer Lemon Gnocchi With Spring Vegetables
Gnocchi are the ultimate belly-filling, soul-satisfying comfort food, but you don’t want to be standing around making gnocchi when guests are at your door. Not that they are only for guests—a two-year-old would find a lot to like too! There are a couple of ways to get ahead here.
You could form the gnocchi and let them sit at room temperature for an hour or so before boiling.
You could, of course, just continue with the recipe, brown, and serve, but to get ahead, coat with a little olive oil after cooking and draining, wrap tight, and refrigerate until needed.
You also could spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze until hard, and transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Keep frozen until ready to cook—do not defrost! The only caveat for this method is that you must have abundant boiling water, and you should boil in smaller batches so that the water doesn’t take too long to return to a boil. Just scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drain while you cook the rest. They will be a little more “furry” looking, but by the time they are browned, they will be just fine.
The one thing you do not want to do is keep the uncooked gnocchi in the fridge for more than a few hours, as they will just get gummy and sticky.
This is just one (lighter and fresher) way to serve these pillowy gnocchi. They freeze well, so even if the recipe makes more than you need, you’ll have them handy in the freezer when inspiration (or cravings) strike. They also can be served quickly and simply with brown butter, sage, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, or with your favorite tomato sauce with whatever veggie add-ins you want.
They aren’t at all difficult to make, but you will want a ricer or a food mill (my preference) to process the potatoes. A food mill is useful for many other things (applesauce, tomato sauce, fruit purees, etc.) and requires less elbow grease than a ricer, so I highly recommend making the small investment in this very old-fashioned but extremely useful kitchen tool.
Serves 6 to 8
For the gnocchi:
- 4 large russet potatoes (about 3 pounds), unpeeled, scrubbed, left whole
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for cooking the gnocchi
- 2 large eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons butter
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 cup cooked fava beans, or fresh or frozen (thawed) shelled peas
- 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
- 1/4 cup soft fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon
Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon of the salt in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 3 inches. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, uncover, and cook, turning the potatoes occasionally, until they meet no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp paring knife, 35 to 40 minutes. If the potatoes are large, it might take a few minutes longer.
Drain in a colander and peel (just pull off the skin with your fingers) as soon as they are cool enough to handle—use a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to help you handle the heat. Pass the potatoes through a food mill fitted with the finest disk into a bowl, or use a ricer. Spread the potatoes out onto a couple of layers of paper towel and let cool until lukewarm. Remove the paper towels, form the potatoes into a mound, and make a well in the center. Break the eggs into the well and add the remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and the lemon zest. Use a fork to beat the eggs and gradually start incorporating the potatoes. Knead until smooth, using a bench scraper to help you work the dough.
Sprinkle 1 cup of flour over the top and gently knead it in until it is all mixed together and forms a dough. Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour and knead until incorporated. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, lightly flour the dough, and knead 10 to 12 times to ensure that everything is well incorporated and the dough is soft and smooth. If it still feels at all sticky, add more flour by the tablespoonful until it doesn’t. You want to add as little flour as possible so the gnocchi remain light and soft. Because of the variables in size and moisture levels in the potatoes, you will need to use your instincts a bit here. If you are unsure, cook a test gnocchi. The main point is to add enough flour so they stay together when cooked.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll the dough into a thick rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. If it gets too long to manage, cut it in half using the bench scraper or a knife. Cut into 1-inch pieces and transfer to a generously floured, parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until needed if cooking within a few hours, otherwise freeze them in single layers on the baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a container or resealable plastic bag until needed.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a small handful of salt. Carefully drop in half the gnocchi (if they have been frozen previously, go straight from the freezer to the water) and return to a boil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until they float. Scoop them out with a strainer or slotted spoon and drain thoroughly. Coat lightly with oil and refrigerate if not using right away. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
When ready to serve, heat a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook half the gnocchi, tossing occasionally, until deep golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat.
After all the gnocchi have been browned, add another 2 teaspoons oil and 2 teaspoons butter to the pan. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, or until just tender. Add the fava beans and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Return the gnocchi to the skillet and toss to combine. Zest the lemon over the top, then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the herbs and serve immediately.
If you don’t have a food mill or a ricer, you can grate the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. You also can use leftover mashed potatoes!
Up to 1 month ahead: Make the gnocchi and freeze on baking sheets; once hard, transfer to a resealable plastic bag.
Up to 1 day ahead: Boil the gnocchi and drain thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use.
At the last minute: Brown the gnocchi and finish the dish.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Open Kitchen” by Susan Spungen, published by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright 2019 by Susan Spungen.