But with one bite of these soft, tangy (albeit, not the prettiest) pasta pillows – mixed with tender asparagus, lots of fresh chives and coated in nutty browned butter – we knew we had a winner. The LA Times' Spring Vegetable Stew with Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi was our inspiration, but what we ended up with was a little more rustic (read: oddly shaped gnocchi) and used just a handful of ingredients.
It's fitting because the Times' recipe accompanied an article about how the best farmers' market cooking is all about improvisation. That couldn't have been more true. Our Chicago farmers' market selections are still pretty limited at this point, but a bundle of fresh chives and some chunky purple asparagus gave us plenty of great spring flavor.
We didn't have ricotta, so we tried goat cheese instead. And in place of a white wine sauce, we went with simple browned butter.
The whole meal came together really quickly - even with homemade pasta – and the recipe can be easily adapted to incorporate whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand. It's all about improvisation!
Goat Cheese and Chive Gnocchi with Asparagus
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 lb. asparagus, washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
In a small mixing bowl, combine goat cheese, Parmesan, egg, 1/4 cup chives and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix with a fork until smooth. Add flour a spoonful at a time until dough comes together but is still a little wet.
Lightly flour a work surface and line a jelly roll pan with wax paper. On the floured surface, knead dough for about a minute. If it's still a little sticky, add some flour as needed, a spoonful at a time.
Divide dough in half. Flour hands and roll into each piece back and forth until it becomes a rope about 1-inch thick. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. If desired, roll each piece against the back of a fork to add texture. Place gnocchi on wax paper-lined pan and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to boil for the gnocchi.
Meanwhile, cut asparagus on the bias into 1/2-inch pieces. Steam for about 2 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.
When water is boiling, salt generously. Add gnocchi and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Drain and set aside.
In a large sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat until it begins to brown. Add the asparagus, gnocchi, 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining chives. Cook for 1 minute. Add black pepper to taste. Serve. Garnish with chive blossoms if desired.
Related: Recipe: Easy Ricotta Gnocchi
(Image: Joanna Miller)