When spring has sprung, I’m always looking for great asparagus dishes…and sense pasta is in season all year long, why not combine the two.  In this recipe video, I make a very fresh and light Gnocchi with Asparagus and Bacon dish.  These little pillows of pasta are soft and delicious, and worthy of frequent trips to the dinner table.  But often gnocchi recipes are supper heavy with thick rich sauces.  And while I love a nice rich sauce, sometimes you want something a bit lighter and healthier – without sacrificing any flavor.  This recipe fits the bill.

Recipe Overview and Keys to Success

This dish is not hard to make, but because of the simplicity of flavors, you do need to make sure you do a few things:

  1. Over cooked Gnocchi may be the worst of all over cooked pastas – they just turn into mush, so make sure you don’t over-do them.
  2. Because you want to make sure you don’t over cook the pasta, I like to get the sauce most of the way done, before dropping the Gnocchi in the water.  It’s easy to hold the sauce on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes if needed
  3. Crisp up the bacon first, by making bacon lardons; then save the rendered bacon fat to sauté the other ingredients in – that adds a lot of flavor
  4. The chicken broth makes the “sauce” here.  You want to make sure you use enough so that it thickens a bit, but still provides some liquidity at the bottom of your pasta bowl (as opposed to dry); that sauce will bring all the flavors together
  5. Season properly…and taste as you go

Ingredients for Gnocchi with Asparagus & Bacon (for 2)

  • 1 package of Gnoochi (10 – 15 ounces)
  • 5 Asparagus stalks
  • 1 strip of thick sliced bacon (or 2 thin sliced)
  • Tablespoon of toasted pine nuts
  • 1 diced shallot
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 lemon (for the juice)
  • Tablespoon of chopped basil
  • Tablespoon of butter
  • Half cup of chicken stock
  • Parmesan cheese

Making the Gnocchi with Asparagus & Bacon

  • Dice the bacon and sauté until crispy in just a drizzle of olive oil
  • Remove the bacon and retain the rendered fat
  • Blanch the Asparagus in salted boiling water until 90% cooked (just barely tender); and shock the blanched asparagus in ice water to stop the cooking process and set the color
  • Toast about a tablespoon of pine nuts in a dry pan until just slightly browned
  • You can easily do the above steps a few hours ahead of time
  • Put salted water on the heat for the Gnocchi and bring it up to the boil
  • Dice the Asparagus into bite size pieces
  • Heat a sauté pan, and add the reserved bacon fat
  • Sauté the shallot and garlic over medium heat until softened
  • Drop the Gnocchi into the boiling, salted water to cook
  • Turn the heat on your sauté pan to high, and add the diced Asparagus and cooked bacon to the shallots and garlic; toss
  • Add a light squeeze of lemon juice and the chicken stock; bring to a boil and reduce by about half
  • Drain off the Gnocchi and add to the sauté pan, the butter and season with salt and pepper and toss for about 30 seconds.  Check the consistency of the sauce, it should be nice and thick – you add more stock, or let it continue to reduce to either thin or thicken it.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust if needed
  • Add the chopped basil and toss the pasta
  • Take the pan off the heat, and plate up a portion of the Gnoochi
  • Garnish with the toasted pine nuts and few pieces of shaved (or grated) parmesan cheese

Wine Pairing: Asparagus can be really hard to pair a wine with, but I think you've got a good bet with a Sauvignon Blan, or with a Chardonnay.  Find a great pairing at Into Wine.

Hope you enjoy this recipe for Gnocchi with Asparagus and Bacon.  Obviously, it’s easy to swap out other vegetables in this dish (to keep it seasonal all year long), or change up the other herbs or even meat.  Leave me a comment and let me know how it goes.

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