Celebrating spring with gnocchi, ramps and artichokes (Vegan, Plant Based)
The Italian kitchen was small and could fit five on a busy night. But with only four people in the kitchen at one time to serve up to 35 to 40 guests it was the perfect size.
I found that to be true of most of the Italian spaces I worked and lived in. It was always just enough space for what you needed, practical with very little if no frills. Gas stoves, a functional table and furniture took up all the space in the smaller apartment I lived in. The walls in the apartment were stone, modeled after traditional building methods. The apartment smelled of wet earth and wood that makes my heart ache thinking about it. I loved it.
I worked in Italy for two months in the summer of 2016 before my senior year at Cornell. I made a lot of friends, learned a lot and experienced what it was like to live in a small Italian town. There is a difference between visiting a place and living in that place. There is a sense of connection and understanding you achieve by living. By the time I left my Italian was decent, I would have been fluent given another month or two.
I worked in a small restaurant at a hotel in Tuscany, overlooking hills and valleys. This is where I learned how to make pasta. Every week I would work with a wonderful cook named Luca who didn’t speak English very well but worked hard to teach me. He taught me how to make cannellono, caramele, and purple potato gnocchi.
Pasta is easy to make but difficult to perfect. It’s about texture, how much flour you use and how thin you can roll it out without tearing. The only way to perfect pasta is to make it until your hands know the dough better than your mind, like most skills. I can’t say that I have perfected my pasta making but I enjoy making it all the same. It’s like bread making. A tactile experience that removes thinking from the process to making perfect pasta. You can’t be afraid to use your hands to create something beautiful.
I’m finally in a bit of a work loll following the release of The Spirit of Summer ebook, which you can find here. Working on The Spirit of Summer Ebook has monopolized my spring. Now I’m in a rush to enjoy the remaining parts of spring while they’re still here! I’ve been thinking about my time in Italy and all the beauty of Spring I’m trying to enjoy so, I’ve put together this gnocchi recipe with a fresh spring ramp sauce.
Ramps are a small wild garlicky, oniony plant that one forages for in May. (At least here in Western NY). They are so delicious and a fun thing to play with if you have access to them. I got mine from a friend’s front yard! Artichokes are of course, a pinnacle of spring. The cool nights here make gnocchi a fantastic choice until the summer heat hits. Feel free to substitute green onions or chives for the ramps. You can make the base gnocchi recipe any time of the year and top it with your favorite seasonal sauces and plants!
I did use canned artichokes in these pictures because I was a bit crunched for time. I recommend going through the trouble of working with fresh artichokes if you can. The taste of fresh artichokes is something you will crave for all the Springs to come!
This video does a great job explaining how to clean and prepare artichokes for cooking.
Spring Gnocchi with Ramps and Artichokes (Vegan, Plant-Based)
For the Gnocchi
5 medium white potatoes
1 ½- 1 ¾ Cup all purpose flour*
1 ½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
For the Sauce
1 small bunch (1/2 Cup) Ramps, chives or green onions
½ bunch fresh parsley (1 Cup stems and all)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ tsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ Cups sautéed mushrooms
1 Cup sautéed artichokes
Anything spring that you enjoy! (Peas, asparagus, etc)
For the Gnocchi
1. Steam or bake the potatoes until tender, whole and unpeeled. Refrain from boiling as the potatoes will soak up extra water which will mean you will need more flour and run the risk of gummy gnocchi.
2. Cool the potatoes and peel them before putting them through a ricer or spending a lot of time with a potato masher. I used a potato masher and still had small chunks of potatoes in my gnocchi which I understand isn’t ideal but I didn’t have a ricer on hand so please use what you have and know if you made it with love and intention that everyone will love them!
3. Once thoroughly mashed or riced mix in the salt and nutritional yeast and taste for seasoning. Add more if you feel the need to (you can also add some finely chopped herbs at this stage, garlic powder or other wonderful spices, make it your own!)
4. Slowly add the flour in 1/3 to ½ cup increments. The amount of flour you need will depend on the cooking method used to cook the potatoes, how old your flour is and even if the air is humid or dry. You want to make sure that the dough is coming together but isn’t overly dry or developing any gluten.
5. Once you’ve added about ¾ of the flour, add a little of the remaining flour onto your workbench or counter before placing the dough on top, coating it with a generous sprinkling of flour. Knead the dough together gently with your hands. You want to the dough to homogenous but not overworked. This takes practice and some real body mind connection. Don’t overthink it and use your intuition, if it looks something like a cookie dough (it shouldn’t feel like cookie dough) then you’re in the right place.
6. Once the dough has come together take a knife or a bench scraper and cut off a small piece of the dough. Roll it out into a log that is about 1/3 to ½ inch in diameter, working from the inside out without applying too much pressure. Again, this is where body mind connection comes into play, don’t overthink it! Just remember those play-doh snakes you made as a kid!
7. Once your dough is rolled out, start cutting pieces off the log at a little less than ½ inch long. Toss them in a little bit of flour and place on a parchment lined baking sheet with a little dusting of flour.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you’ve used all the dough. At this point, you can freeze the gnocchi or place them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.
For the Sauce
1. Roast the ramps in a 375 degree oven until brown in some places and tender. This is to soften them and take away some of that raw onion, garlic flavor.
2. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until it becomes a pesto consistency, adding any water to get it there.
3. Set a side while you make the pasta
1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, salt it generously before cooking half of the gnocchi you made, careful to dust off any excess flour that may be on the outside.
2. The gnocchi are done when they float to the top. Instead of dumping out the pot of water get a pasta spoon or slotted spoon and drain off the gnocchi and place it in a large serving dishing with a healthy dose of the sauce.
3. Cook the second batch of gnocchi and add the rest of the sauce or enough sauce for your liking and serve, garnished with sautéed mushrooms and artichokes.
4. The sauce will keep for up to four days in the fridge.