I find podding beans and peas to be utterly relaxing.
I listen to jazz on the radio and sip herbal tea (or wine…depending on the time of day) whilst I pod away, with a few green gems finding their way into my mouth every so often.
They are deliciously fresh, especially the tiny peas that seem to go “pop” when you eat them. I posted a photo of the peas on Instagram last week and received great comments with suggestions for dishes (eg. pea and parmesan risotto, orecchiette pasta with peas). I was contemplating making risi e bisi but when I opened the fridge and spied a half-finished kilo tub of fresh ricotta, I knew that it had to be ricotta gnocchi. So I pulled Fabrizia Lanza’s book “Coming home to Sicily” off the bookshelf – it has my go-to recipe for ricotta gnocchi.
What I love about the recipe (actually with all of her recipes) is that it is simple and speaks of the land. Fabrizia suggests to use fresh sheep’s milk ricotta and gets it from a local sheep farmer (…if only!). I use regular cow’s milk ricotta, the firm variety in its own draining basket. If you have never made ricotta gnocchi before, you will love how much quicker they are to make compared to potato gnocchi. I also find them less filling, so are ideal for a spring lunch.
Once the ricotta gnocchi are made, the sauce is fresh and requires little cooking. I lightly blanch the peas and beans, and then drop them into a pan together with some melted butter and the cooked gnocchi, tossing them until are were well coated. It makes a lovely light dish and when accompanied by a glass of Sicilian Malvasia.
In case you have not heard of Fabrizia Lanza, she and her incredible cooking school are legendary. Here are a couple of links from people who have visited the school and written about it including David Leibovitz and Bea’ (La Tartine Gourmand). It therefore comes as no surprise that I am incredibly excited to be running a five-day workshop at Case Vecchie with Fabrizia in September 2016.
Serves 4 people
450g firm ricotta
1 large egg
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
fine semolina for dusting
100g butter, unsalted
couple of handfuls each of podded peas and podded broad beans
handful baby mint leaves
a small lemon, zest only
parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
To make the gnocchi, put the ricotta and egg in a bowl and mash with a fork until the ricotta is creamy. Add the flour and parmesan cheese and stir. The mixture will be quite soft. Drop a small handful of mixture onto a working surface that has been well dusted with fine semolina. Work the dough into a long sausage shape and cut off 2-3cm portions. Roll individual gnocchi in semolina and set aside. Repeat with the remaining ricotta and set aside.
To double-pod the broad beans, drop them in boiling water for couple of minutes. Drain, then pop them out of their second shell. Wash them well (as they can be a bit sticky) and set aside, Blanch the peas for about a minute in boiling salted water (and refresh in iced water).
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Drop in about half of the gnocchi so as not to over-crowd the pan (or use two saucepans). They will rise to the surface and cook in about two minutes. Lift them out with a slotted spoon, draining them well.
Whilst the gnocchi are cooking, heat the butter in a large frypan. Drop the cooked gnocchi into the melted butter, tossing them so they are well coated. Add the peas and broad beans, tossing them with the gnocchi and allowing them to heat through.
Serve on warmed plates, scattering freshly ground pepper and salt to taste, lemon zest and plenty of parmesan cheese.