Nettle Gnocchi With Cream And Pancetta Sauce

Another trip to the Phoenix Park to get more wild garlic also yielded a great haul of nettles, far more than I got last time so I had to figure a way of using them up; I was reminded of a lovely meal I had in Croatia a few years back that featured nettle gnocchi so I figured I’d have a go trying to recreate it.

Now, gnocchi have a reputation for being quite stodgy and it’s not entirely undeserved but this is generally because either the dough has been overworked or too much flour has been used. The trick I find is to add the flour in increments and stop as soon as you have a workable dough even if it’s still sticking to your hands slightly.

It’s also vital to boil the potatoes in their skins so they don’t take on too much water which would necessitate using more flour to counteract the excess moisture; in fact, I’ve seen several recipes that call for baking rather than boiling which, of course, eliminates the risk of waterlogging altogether so you could give that a try instead.

It’s especially important here because no matter how hard you squeeze the nettles after cooking them they’re still going to be pretty wet. Also, be careful when seasoning the cream sauce as the pancetta is already quite salty, I misjudged this myself but it’s easily rectified by cutting back on the amount of salt I put in when cooking the gnocchi.

Serves: 2

Ingredients

For the gnocchi:
4 medium potatoes
150g nettles
25g parmigiano-reggiano
1 egg, lightly beaten
70g flour
Salt
Pepper

For the sauce:
Small knob of butter
50g diced pancetta
50ml white wine
100ml creme fraiche
100ml veal stock
2 sprigs thyme
Grating of nutmeg

  1. For the gnocchi, place the potatoes in a pan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil; lower heat to a simmer and cook until easily pierced through by the point of a knife.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the nettles for one minute.
  3. Remove from the pan and squeeze out as much of the water in the leaves as possible.
  4. Finely chop the nettles and leave to one side.
  5. When the potatoes are cooked remove from the water and peel off the skins.
  6. Mash the potatoes using a ricer or food mill and put into a bowl.
  7. Add the nettles, parmigiano-reggiano, egg, flour and pepper to the bowl.
  8. Flour your hands and mix all the ingredients together into a soft and slightly sticky dough, taking care not to overwork it.
  9. Lightly flour your work surface and take a small ball of dough from the bowl and roll into a cylinder around about 1cm in diameter.
  10. Using a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into 2cm pieces. Repeat these two steps until all the dough is used up.
  11. Place the gnocchi on a lightly buttered plate and put in the fridge to firm up.
  12. For the sauce, melt the butter over a low to medium heat and then add the pancetta: fry until it is golden and the fat has rendered.
  13. Add the white wine and boil until most of it has evaporated.
  14. Add the stock, creme fraiche, thyme and nutmeg and leave to simmer until the sauce has reduced by around half.
  15. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and then add the gnocchi. They will only take 2-3 minutes to cook and are generally done when they start floating to the top of the water.
  16. Drain the gnocchi (or remove using a slotted spoon) and with with the cream sauce.
  17. Divide between two bowls and top with more parmeggiano-reggiano.

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