Mother Earth Living

The Garnish Garden: Arugula Pesto with Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi Recipe

Fresh herbs and edible flowers from the garden make this gnocchi recipe unique and delectable.
By Ellen Ecker Ogden
May 2012
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Arugula from the garden gives this pesto a fresh flavor.
Photo by Orlando Bellini/Fotolia

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Recipes play an integral role in The Complete Kitchen Garden (Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2011), encompassing a full range of soups, salads, main-course savory dishes and desserts, as well as condiments and garnishes to dress up the plate. With a wide-ranging collection of 14 garden designs and more than 100 recipes, this book is sure to delight both novice and experienced gardeners. The following Arugula Pesto with Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi recipe is from the chapter "The Garnish Garden." 

There is something so satisfying about making gnocchi—tender pillows of dough that do not require a pasta machine. For the best result, use fresh ricotta (as opposed to commercial brands), which is available at local farmers’ markets or cheese stores. The bright-green pesto proves that you don’t have to use basil to get a terrific herb sauce for pasta. SERVES 4 TO 6

Arugula Pesto
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
• 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
• 1 1/2 cups arugula leaves, well rinsed and towel-dried
• 1 1/2 packed cups fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed and towel-dried
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Ricotta Gnocchi
• 1 cup semolina flour
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chervil
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh fennel leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese, drained
• Olive oil, for tossing gnocchi
• 12 lemon gem marigolds

1. Make the arugula pesto: With the motor running, drop the garlic through the feed tube of a food processor to mince. Add the pine nuts, arugula, spinach, and Parmesan and pulse until the greens are finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the oil to make a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. (The pesto can be made up to 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.)

2. Make the ricotta gnocchi: Place the semolina, chives, sage, chervil, fennel, salt, nutmeg, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Transfer to a medium bowl and, with your hands, blend in the ricotta. Flour your hands and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients cling together. The dough will be sticky, but do not add more flour or the gnocchi will be heavy.

3. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and dust with flour. Place about 1/3 cup of dough at a time on a lightly floured work surface and roll it underneath your palms to make a 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut the rope into 3/4-inchlong pieces. Using the tines of a fork, press an indentation into each piece and place the gnocchi on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used.

4. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until they rise to the surface. Boil for 30 seconds, until the gnocchi are set but tender. Drain well. (The gnocchi can be made up to 4 hours ahead, rinsed under cold water and drained well.) Toss the gnocchi with olive oil and store at room temperature. To reheat, cook in a large nonstick skillet over low heat, or drop into boiling water to warm. Toss the hot gnocchi with the pesto, garnish with marigolds, and serve immediately.

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Complete Kitchen Garden, published by Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2011. 

Click here to read the main article, The Garnish Garden: Growing Edible Flowers.

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