Gnocchi with pea pesto, asparagus & watercress 

Gnocchi with pea pesto and watercress
Gnocchi with pea pesto and watercress
Gnocchi with pea pesto and watercress

I haven’t really had much time for gnocchi in the past, as it tends to be one of those dishes that gets thrust upon me in restaurants. Squidgy gummy potatoes laden with blue cheese sauce? Er, no thank you, Mr Carluccio.
But perhaps I’m being a bit judgemental. After all, what’s not to like about a little potato dumpling? Perhaps my beef was never with the dumpling at all, but with the heavy cheese sauce – it was simply too rich and bad-dream-inducing.
However, I decided to push aside my reservations and give gnocchi another chance, so off I trotted to Tesco to buy a lovely fresh packet – please don’t expect me to make it from scratch, I’ve tried and it was a messy, unmitigated disaster. I did however make this rather springy pea pesto to go with it which was very tasty and can be in your belly within fifteen minutes. It’s official, gnocchi and I are friends again.


Gnocchi with pea pesto, asparagus & watercress 
Serves 2 / Hands on time 20 mins / Total time 20 mins / V
You’ll need: A food processor or blender
Handful fresh mint leaves
2 tbs pine nuts
½ a lemon
200g frozen garden peas
30g vegetarian Italian hard cheese or Parmesan* grated plus extra for serving
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp sea salt flakes
300g fresh gnocchi
125g asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into thirds
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
2 handfuls watercress


Tip: This recipe makes enough pesto for 4 servings. Any remaining pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze on the day of making.
Tip: This pesto also works well with pasta if you’re not a gnocchi fan.


Method
1. ​Start by boiling a kettle and put your frozen peas in a sieve. Pour the boiling water over the frozen peas to thaw them a bit and put to one side. Fill the kettle again and boil – you’ll need this for the gnocchi and asparagus later.
2. To make the pesto pour the peas into a food processor along with the chopped garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, grated cheese, mint leaves and salt. Blitz for about a minute before adding the extra virgin olive oil and blitzing again until you have a smooth paste.
3. Pour the boiled kettle into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the chopped asparagus spears and cook for 2 minutes before adding the gnocchi and cooking for 2-3 mins (check packet instructions). Drain and pour back into the saucepan and stir in half of the pesto and the tomato halves. Serve immediately on a bed of watercress topped with a sprinkle of cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and a crack of black pepper.

Gnocchi with pea pesto and watercress
Gnocchi with pea pesto and watercress

If you’ve had a go at making my gnocchi or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com


V– Vegetarian
❄ The pesto is suitable for home freezing in an airtight container. Consume within 3 months.
*Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiani) is always made using animal rennet, therefore it is not vegetarian. Substitute for Italian hard cheese if applicable.



kale & walnut pesto

Kale and walnut pesto
Kale and walnut pesto
Kale and walnut pesto

I don’t know why I thought that making my own pesto would be such a chore, but even in my hungover state it only took 10 minutes. Good thing, too, as I’d spent the previous evening dancing the night away – along with 60,000 other people – to Britney Spears at Brighton Pride. The last time I saw Britney thrust her way across a stage in her knickers was back in 2003, and she hasn’t changed a bit. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for me, although I did manage to squeeze my rather soft 34-year-old self into a corset and some fishnets – classy.
Anyway, so Sunday morning was a bleak affair, waking up with panda eyes and covered in other people’s glitter. I couldn’t face leaving the house’ so made do with what I had – a bit of kale, a handful of walnuts and an overactive basil plant. I hope you enjoy the results stirred through some delicious pasta.


Kale and walnut pesto
Makes 8 servings / Hands on time 10 mins / Total time 10 mins / V Vn Gf Df 
You’ll need: A food processor
50g walnuts (aprox one handful)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and  roughly sliced
1 handful of kale, heavier stems removed and discarded
30g fresh basil
4 tbs Pomora extra virgin olive oil


Method
1. Roughly peel and chop the garlic before adding it to a food processor, along with the walnuts and a handful of kale (heavier stems removed). Blitz on full for about 10 seconds or until you have a rough paste.
2. Add the fresh basil, a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and give it another blitz – this time for a bit longer until you have a slightly smoother paste.
3. Lastly, add 3 tbs of extra virgin olive oil before blending for a final time (how long you blend is up to you depending on how smooth you like your pesto).
4. Spoon into a jar and top with 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. Store in the fridge for up to a week and enjoy stirred through pasta, drizzled on salads or simply spread on toast. Tasty!

Kale and walnut pesto
Kale and walnut pesto

If you’ve had a go at making my pesto or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com


V– Vegetarian    Vn– Vegan    Gf– Gluten free    Df– Dairy free    – Suitable for home freezing in an airtight container. Consume within 3 months.


Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta

Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta
Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta

Okay so this is pretty embarrassing and very shameful to admit but I didn’t know Sicily was a country until Jamie told me yesterday. I’d always assumed it was just another Italian city like Rome or Venice. Although I don’t blame myself entirely for this lack of knowledge, I blame my school. For some reason it was compulsory to study German geography if you studied German. To this day, I still don’t know if we were studying the geography of Germany taught in German or simply geography taught in German. Either way, I couldn’t and still can’t speak German so it made no difference. Thanks for nothing Edwin Gruber.
Anyway enough about Germany, lets talk about Sicily. By chance I wondered into a small Sicilian deli on my lunch hour last week called Casanova & Daughters. It was marvellous, a beautiful shop with shelves laden with imported pasta, jars of sun-dried tomatoes, handsome bottles of olive oil and neat rows of dried basil flowers wrapped in brown paper. I didn’t even know basil plants had flowers? Anyhoo, if you ever find yourself in Covent Garden I urge you to pop in, if only to say hello to the nicest man in London.
Feeling a little tired and uninspired of late, I asked the smiley shop owner to recommend a vegetarian Sicilian dish to make this weekend. He practically jumped out from behind the counter and started sweeping the shop for ingredients. He returned with a bag of capers, sun-dried tomatoes, white fennel seeds, capers and almonds in their actual shells! I’ve only ever seen almonds de-shelled so was shocked when the deli owner crushed one on the counter with his palm and revealed the biggest almond I had ever seen. Why were the almonds in Sainsbury’s so small?
Getting increasingly carried away, I bought everything he put in front of me, including some beautiful pecorino cheese and some pasta called Busiate that look like big dried up mealworms. They tasted delicious. Best £15 I ever spent, although my combat trousers from Tammy Girl I bought in the 90’s came a close second.

Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta
Serves 4 / Takes 25 minutes
Make it vegan: Don’t sprinkle with cheese 
(you’ll need some kind of food processor)
Ingredients:
70g of pasta per person
15-20 sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbs capers
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
16 large almonds (or 30 small)
Pinch of fennel seeds
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Pecorino cheese to serve (optional)
You can use parmesan if you like but don’t use too much as the capers make the pesto very salty

Method:
1. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes for a minute in a bowl of boiling water. Fish them out and pop them straight into the food processor (keep the water). Add the almonds, capers, fennel seeds, garlic and the extra virgin olive oil. Don’t season with salt, the capers are so salty that you don’t need to add any extra seasoning.
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2. Add 6 – 8 tablespoons of the tomato water and blitz until you get a thick pesto. Meanwhile start to cook your pasta and follow the cooking instructions on the packet, 8 minutes should do it though.
3. Finally drain your pasta and pop back in the pan off the heat. Stir in the pesto and serve immediately topped with grated pecorino and a good drizzle of olive oil.
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Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta
Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta

If you’ve had a go at making my Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta or any of my other recipes I’d love to hear about it. @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

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