gnocchi di ricotta with cavoletti di bruxelles, aglio, pancetta & mandorle
ricotta gnocchi with brussels sprouts, garlic, bacon & almonds
I feel there is a general consensus on Brussels sprouts; you either love them or loathe them! It was the latter for me as a child, however, I don’t think anyone (even brussels sprouts aficionados) would have liked them cooked the way my mum cooked them! Mushy, grey overcooked sprouts!!! It was only once I started to date (and eventually marry) a chef, that Brussels became a firm favourite in our Autumn/Winter menus!
I am certain that Brussels sprouts could be a firm universal favourite if cooked well. By “well”, I mean undercooking rather then overcooking them! And that my friends, is really the only one rule I believe you need to know & remember when cooking with Brussels sprouts! Whether you steam, roast or fry – just don’t do it for long!
Here is the science behind why you don’t overcook Brussles;
- Like all cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), Brussels sprouts are high in chemical compounds that when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time (they will turn grey colour too), produce hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless chalcogen hydride gas with the characteristic of foul odour of rotten eggs. It can be harmful if had in large amounts! As a general rule, any chemical compound with the word sulphur in it is going to smell very bad!
No wonder we rejected overcooked Brussels sprouts! Our taste buds were very wise to instruct us to spit out that grey, overcooked foul mush!
Have I convinced you to revisit Brussels sprouts?
When they are cooked ever so slightly (perfect in my books) Brussels are sweet, and mildly flavoured. They can be crisp too in charred just a little. Can you see a pattern forming – slightly, little!!!
Some other tips I can add:
- Shop for the smallest Brussels. These will cook the fastest and have the sweetest flavour.
- Always remove any dark or damaged outer leaves & trim away the dark, dried-out base.
Brussels sprouts are thought to have originated in Ancient Rome, though they gained their popularity (and name) in Brussels, Belgium. I can see the Ancient Romans enjoying sprouts lightly roasted and tossed through a plate of pasta!
They are truly delicious simply cut into quarters and tossed in a frypan lightly (briefly) with olive oil, butter & chopped garlic. However, they do stand their ground when paired with BACON, CHEESE (such as ricotta), CREAM, HERBS, & VINEGAR. With those flavours in mind you can really create fantastic meals.
RICOTTA GNOCCHI INGREDIENTS
• 800g fresh firm full-fat Ricotta
• 3 egg yolks (about 50g each)
• 60g Pecorino cheese, finely grated
• 150-220g ‘00’ tipo flour or plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• Good pinch sea salt
• Good pinch white pepper
• 2 tblsp olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 3 small eschalots, skin removed, finely chopped
• 2 shallots, finely sliced
• 300g brussels sprouts, finely shaved (can do with a mandolin or in a food processor or even a good chef's knife)
• 8 rashers bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
• 80g slivered almonds, toasted to golden colour
• shavings of pecorino cheese to serve
• sea salt and white pepper for seasoning
• cracked black pepper
• extra virgin olive oil
- To make the ricotta gnocchi: in a large bowl, add the ricotta, egg yolks, pecorino cheese, sea salt, and white pepper and ¼ of the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon or hand. Gradually add more flour until mixture comes together into a soft ball and not very sticky. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters. Working with a quarter at a time, roll out into a thin sausage – about 1cm thick. Using a pastry scraper or knife, cut the dough into 1 to 1.5cm lengths to form the ricotta gnocchi pieces. Set the gnocchi on a tray lined with baking paper and repeat with the remaining dough. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil ready to cook gnocchi.
- Add the gnocchi to the boiling pot of salted water in batches. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. They will rise to the top when they are close to being cooked through. Drain gnocchi – reserving the gnocchi water to use in the sauce (if needed).
- In a large fry pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the eschalots with a good pinch of sea salt and allow to cook for a few minutes - until translucent. Add the bacon and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add in the garlic, brussels sprouts, shallots, seasoning and cook for 3 minutes until brussels have wilted.
- Toss the drained gnocchi into the fry pan - can add a little of the gnocchi water and allow to cook for just a minute.
- Serve with a scattering of toasted almonds, a few shavings of pecorino cheese, a sprinkle of crackled pepper and a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.