Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gnocchi with a Ham and Peas Cream Sauce

Do you have those days when you get to the afternoon and realize you have NO IDEA what you will do for dinner?  I have them all of the time, lately.  The one thing I wanted to make was too involved and time consuming at that point so I was at a loss.  Time to get creative....  Enter, Gnocchi with a Ham and Peas Cream Sauce.

Periodically I purchase packaged gnocchi (not the frozen kind but the kind in the pasta aisle) to have on hand.  Thank goodness I did this recently as it gave me a jumping off point for dinner planning!  I googled "gnocchi sauces" and found a lot of recipes for tomato sauces (no canned or fresh tomatoes in the house) and then I found a recipe for a Bacon and Peas Cream Sauce.  Eureka, I thought.  Then I went into the kitchen.  Strangely, I had no bacon in the freezer and very little peas.  Hmmm.  That doesn't look good.  But I had thinly sliced deli ham and a fresh zucchini, so that would have to work!

And work it did!  It was DELICIOUS.  Even the clever girl said "Momma, this is yummy.  Can you make it again??"  Yahoo!  I did it!  I'll try to tell you what I did, as well as what the original recipe suggested, so you can choose how you want to make this delicious, fast dinner too!

Gnocchi with a Ham and Peas Cream Sauce
adapted a lot from the
2 TB olive oil
2 TB unsalted butter
1 medium sweet yellow onion, halved and cut into thin half-rounds
4 cloves garlic, pressed
~9 thin slices of deli ham (I failed to weigh this, sorry), sliced into pieces about 1/2 inch by 1 inch
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1 pound gnocchi
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

First, put a large pot of water on the stove for boiling the gnocchi.  Get it to boiling so it is ready when you are!

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and add butter and olive oil.  Once the butter is melted, add the onions and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and zucchini and continue to saute for another minute.  Add the ham and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the ham is the consistency you like and the zucchini is is starting to soften.  Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan if there are any stuck bits from the onions or garlic, then add the milk and peas.  When I made this, I accidentally used only 1/4 cup milk and thought to myself that it should be increased a bit, then realized that it actually called for 1/2 cup so that would be better to get a nicer sauce. 

Once you have added the milk to the skillet, add the gnocchi to the boiling water.  Gnocchi usually only takes 2-3 minutes to cook.  They are done when they float to the top of the water.  Drain the gnocchi and add them to the skillet along with the Parmesan cheese and nutmeg.  I have this awesome cool strainer spoon which I used to take the gnocchi from the pan as they finished and add them to the skillet.  If you don't have this cool gadget (you might want to get one!!) but you could also just use a regular spoon, being careful to drain the water each time, or just wait until all of the gnocchi is floating and dump it into a regular strainer. 

Gently stir the gnocchi, cheese and nutmeg into the sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve to your family and watch them clean their plates!!

NOTE:  The original recipe called for a red or yellow onion, 3 strips of bacon, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 1 cup of frozen peas.  If you use bacon, you don't have to get the bacon to a crisp point when cooking, just cooked through. 
Printable Recipe

I couldn't be happier with this fast, last minute creation.  I will definitely have to start making sure I have gnocchi on hand all the time, for evenings like this.  The recipe is super adaptable with whatever you happen to have in your refrigerator.  Maybe someday I'll make my own gnocchi for this meal, but until that inspiration really gets me, I'm happy with the ready-made kind!

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