Fresh is best. Or IS IT?
As someone who aims to ‘eat local’, a trip to the supermarket or greengrocer means keeping an eye out on the labels on the fruit and veg. Not only do the handy labels tell you what that wrinkled and knobbly round brown ‘thing’ is (it’s a celeriac), the label also tells you how much it is and its country of origin. Stating the obvious? Sorry!
You get to realise over time that it’s not possible to have cherries or pomegranates year-round, which is why you see them in winter labelled ‘Product of USA’. We also get oranges from California and asparagus from Peru (remember this?). I suppose, if you can’t get it without doing something funky with a syringe and a beaker, then a trip on a boat from the other side of the world is better than nothing.
Which brings us to the fact that it’s Asparagus season here in Australia! Three cheers!
I was sent some lovely, healthy (folate-rich) Victorian asparagus by Woolworths, as part of their Fresh Food Experience, and was eager to put them to good use in this recipe. Asparagus season runs from September to November, so the price is currently right and there’s heaps of gorgeous crisp spears to put into your trolley, so ignore the imports for now and get to it.
Ricotta Gnocchi with fresh Asparagus and Pancetta
500g low-fat ricotta
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup plain flour, sifted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch fresh asparagus, washed, and ends snapped off
4 slices pancetta
1. For the gnocchi: In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, flour and eggs until well combined. Shape tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on a baking tray. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm.
2. For the Asparagus: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the asparagus and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove the asparagus and refresh under cold water. Cut into 1cm slices. Set aside the asparagus and the pan of water.
3. Cook the gnocchi: Add some salt to the reserved saucepan of water and bring to the boil again. Add the gnocchi and cook for approx 3 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked gnocchi and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
4. For the pancetta: Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the pancetta in the pan in a single layer, and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until crisp. Remove pancetta and break into small pieces.
5. In the same frying pan, add the butter and heat until the butter turns brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully add the gnocchi and asparagus and toss to coat. Remove from the heat and tip the gnocchi, asparagus and butter into serving bowls. Top with pancetta and serve.
The uncooked gnocchi can be frozen for up to 1 month. Just put the gnocchi on the baking tray into the freezer for one hour, until the gnocchi harden, then remove them to an airtight container or Ziploc bag, separating the layers with greaseproof paper. They can be cooked in boiling water from frozen, although they'll take a bit longer to rise to the surface.
'Aussie-grown asparagus is fresh at Woolworths right now'.
Asparagus and pancetta. Can it get any better?
The gnocchi on a baking tray, before being chilled.
They swell up after cooking, so don't make them too big unless you like them that way.
The brown butter sauce lets the cheesey gnocchi flavour shine through.
And look at that pointy Aussie asparagus, the best kind!