Some people carb load the day before a marathon; mine is triggered by the first snowfall. Or by an email from a friend late on a Saturday morning: if you don’t happen to have plans tonight, want to come over for spaghetti?
I love the idea that you can just call friends up and have them over to dinner without making a big deal of it. You can pick something up at the store while you’re out, or just make more of what you’d be eating at home anyway, and not worry about how the house looks. I keep meaning to do more of this. It was my New Years’ resolution, in fact – one that was broken halfway through January.
I mixed up a batch of breadsticks – strips of pizza dough twisted and brushed with garlicky oil, topped with grated Parmesan and baked – and we went over to find two tables pushed together in the kitchen, topped with linens and plates of cheese, baguettes, olives, flatbread, and bottles of wine. Kids in the basement, grown-ups upstairs – we all ate bowls of spaghetti with chunky tomato sauce and from-scratch Caesar salad another friend brought, and then slabs of jelly roll from Chinatown topped with berries and whipped cream for dessert, and life was delicious.
This gnocchi wasn’t part of this particular dinner – it was the sort of evening when I didn’t want to have my camera at the dinner table. The gnocchi came together on another night out of necessity – I needed dinner in the time it took to cook a batch of pasta, and decided to go for gnocchi rather than something more mainstream. Fresh gnocchi is easy to find these days among the dried pasta options at the grocery store; I like to boil it, then get a pan nice and hot and brown it, as you might do peroghies, with bacon, and then peas, spinach, a big splash of cream and Parmesan.
This is a heavy, fortifying dish; small portions are key. A tub of salad greens makes the perfect ballast.
Gnocchi with Bacon, Spinach and Peas
5-6 slices bacon, chopped
1 lb fresh gnocchi (in the dry pasta section of the grocery store)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2-1 cup half & half
1/2 bag baby spinach, torn
salt and pepper
In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the gnocchi until they float to the surface (or according to the package directions). Remove with a slotted spoon into the hot skillet with the bacon drippings and stir around for a few minutes, until they start to turn golden. Remove and set aside in a bowl.
Add the peas to the skillet and cook for a few minutes, until heated through. Add the cream and bring to a simmer, then tear (or shake) in the spinach and cook until it wilts. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Stir the gnocchi back in and serve immediately, with Parmesan for grating on top. Serves 4.