Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ricotta Gnocchi with Fresh Peas and Morel Mushrooms – A Tale of Two Recipes

This lovely bowl of spring is a perfect example of when recipes are, and are not, important. The ricotta gnocchi part of the plate requires a fairly precise formula. If any of the three main ingredient amounts are altered, you could be looking at quite a mess. That's certainly not the case for this sauce.

If I made this same combination of ingredients 100 times, each version would be different, which I how I believe these things should work. When I buy peas at the farmers market, I'm not thinking I need 2 cups, I'm thinking I need to buy some peas. The same goes for the mushrooms. Grab a handful and keep moving.

Here's the recipe. Take some mushrooms, preferable wild morel, and saute in olive oil until they smell meaty and delicious. Add some garlic and cook for a minute. Add some vegetable broth, about a 1/2 cup per person, and bring to a boil. Add some peas and cook until tender. Season, add a little cheese and fresh herb, and use as a sauce for the gnocchi.

Besides a general guess at how much broth you need, there's no reason to measure anything else. You could halve or double what I used and argue either way that your sauce is better than mine. Of course, we'd both be right.

There's a common belief that chefs never use recipes, which in the case of the sauce is totally true. But, when a specific texture, density, or viscosity is required in a dish, like for these delicate dumplings, chefs have no problem whatsoever following a formula.

What's my reason for pointing all this out? I don't really have one. You should make this. It tastes good. Enjoy!

For the ricotta gnocchi:
1 pound really good ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of fresh nutmeg
Makes enough for about 6 servings

For the sauce:
Splash of olive oil
handful of mushrooms
some fresh peas
few cloves of garlic
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
about 3 cups of vegetable broth
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
chopped parsley, mint, and/or basil


Anonymous said...

Man, this looks so-o-o-o-o good!
I love it when I have this great opportunity to brag about foraging for morels in the woods around my home--found one right behind the house the other day!
I love the hunt and love to make new dishes with them.

Jesse from Detroit said...

Why leave the mix in the fridge for an hour?

Chef John said...

it stiffens up a bit as the starch hydrates.

blogagog said...

Are you sure these are gnocchi? Don't they require some potatoes? I think what you made is extremely fat spaetzle.

Regardless, looking forward to trying it :).

rosemary said...

All along I thought gnocchi should involve a potato somewhere. Had to google with my mouth wide open, and now I believe. Thank you for such a wonderful idea.

Chris K. said...

blogagog: Yes, they are gnocchi. Potato is a typical ingredient but not required. "Fat spaetzle" sounds great, but spaetzle does not contain cheese.

A couple months back I made Thomas Keller's chicken & dumplings. He trims the edges of the dumplings. With scissors. Is that textbook kitchen perfectionism? I didn't trim my dumplings & guess what? They tasted great anyway.

I'm kind of annoyed because my buddy Wyatt has fresh morels growing in his yard and doesn't share them. And I just can't justify paying $40/ounce for fungus without hallucinogenic properties.

Rita said...

that looks reeeeeally good! unfortunately, hubby doesn't like mushrooms (he's extremely picky about olives, either). so, i may have to sub shrooms with something else. maybe, some kind of meat or something else. any ideas in mind, chef?

Razors Edge said...

I've never used morel mushrooms before but I heard a comment that they can be very "sandy" and require a lot of washing... is that true?

Razors Edge said...

Chef John... can you make a video recipe dedicated to the finale of Lost?? Something with bamboo shoots and mangos maybe

Step into the light!

Delivered Meals said...

This seems great! But I am still an amatuer when it comes to making my own pasta!

Steve said...


I made this recipe last night and it was fabulous. I couldn't find any morels other than the dried ones so I substituted shiitakes. I also tossed in some fava beans along with the English peas, just because they happened to look good in the market.

I also used chicken stock because that's what I happened to have in the freezer.

One note: be sparing with the gnocchi dough when you're making the dumplings, unless you want the "Gnocchi That Ate Chicago" -- they at least quadruple in size as they boil and my first batch came out huge. I found about a third of a teaspoon of batter made a nice bit-sized result.

motor vehicle accident lawyers said...

wow, look at that, I'm already drooling, great color, looks delicious

Nierika said...

I made it and it was FANTASTIC!

Anonymous said...

I made 'em, duplicating the recipe exactly - and they fell apart in the water!! Crumbled!! I finally bailed 45 min. before my guests arrived and ran out to the store for pre-made tortellinis. The sauce was great - substituted favas for peas, but the dumplings were a disaster. Any ideas?

Chef John said...

i have no idea! i've used this recipe many times. maybe u had really wet cheese?

Nico said...

Chef John, looks awesome!

I want to make these 1 day ahead of time... after removing them from the boiling water, what's the best way to keep them? Dry them , and then freeze (maybe on a cookie sheet?)? Or just dry them, tupperware 'em, and refridgerate?


Chef John said...

one day ahead, just refrigerate

ohcynicalone said...

First I'd like to say that I IMMENSELY enjoy your website (and I don't like much!). You make cooking seem enjoyable and tangible for someone that is usually bouncing off the walls from A.D.D.

That being said, I have a seemingly stupid question for you. I don't really like mushrooms (I know, I'm trying, but still no). I know I could substitute any recipe that calls for mushrooms with whatever the hell I want, but what do you suggest? For the most part? Especially dishes with a strong beef flavor and/or wine? (a la Chicken Marsala)

Thanks very much for the help and amazing videos and witty banter. Oh, and bringing to the table all the delicious ethnic and seasonal cuisine that San Francisco has to offer!

Chef John said...

Sorry, but mushrooms are such a unique thing, there really is no substitute. Thanks!!

Keeks said...

Hey Chef,

Was that a cup of all purpose flour? It doesn't say in the ingredients.

Keeks said...

Nvermind. Lol, I just saw it. Was reading too fast.

Chef John said...

yes, if you ever see me write just "flour" I always mean AP. Enjoy!

Ronnie said...

Chef! I have a question!

So back in the day when technology wasn't so great what did people use instead of food processors if they were to create something like this? I'm a student living in the dorms and i really want to make this dish but don't own/can't afford at the moment a food processor.
What can I do? I was thinking of whisking it all together, would that work?

Thanks Chef! I'm learning how to feed myself through your wonderful videos 'cause my momma ain't here to feed me hahahaha

Chef John said...

You can mix by hand, BUT it's just not as smooth. It will stir work though. Enjoy!

Sepi said...

I made this last night - so good! I have a cold and this was perfect, better than chicken soup.

I used fresh tomatoes in instead of morels. And the fresh peas were so tasty - a completely different thing than frozen ones.

Michael said...

I am definately going to do this receipe next year. I am so glad I found this site. Your the best!

Athena said...

I've never had ricotta cheese before and I bought a tub at the supermarket (to try out a lasagna recipe) and boy oh boy it was terrible! It was really sandy and gritty... is that the texture that ricotta is supposed to have?? Needless to say, it ruined the lasagna and I am hesitant to ever use ricotta in anything again!

Anonymous said...

Hello Chef John,

I tried to find my answer through the other comments, but no luck. I like to make a lot of gnocchi ahead of time and store in the freezer. Could I do this with the Ricotta gnocchi? If so, is it as easy as dry, cookie sheet and freeze? Thanks a ton for your contributions to food!

- Amruth

Chef John said...

Maybe after they are boiled, but these are very soft, so may be tough.

Unknown said...

Chef John,
Rather than using to two spoon method for portioning the gnocchi would it be less tedious to put the batter in a disposable piping bag with an appropriately trimmed tip and pinch off the dough as you squeeze the bag? The only drawback I foresee is producing a more ragged product.

Chef John said...

I find this method best, but suit yourself! Only one way to find out.