The one marvellous thing about abandoning Isla for an evening of wine-based debauchery with my friend who lives round the corner is that she eats meat. I can eat meat.
I love vegetarian food and I’m kind of obsessed with tofu (which you may have noticed by now) – given that I no longer eat chicken and I haven’t eaten lamb in years, you could be forgiven for thinking I’ve gone almost completely herbivore. In fact, I will be phasing all meat (bar seafood) from my diet over the next year or so.
Sometimes, however, all I want to do is eat an entire chorizo sausage and fall into a meat coma. And Liz, bless her beautiful – nay, angelic – face (bathed as it is in the light of non-judgement), will eat meat, drink wine and watch Harry Potter with me until we are both falling asleep on the sofa.
She is excellent company and her not-so-wee babby is goddamn adorable.
What this meat-eatery* allows me is the opportunity to put up a recipe for the carnivores among us — but worry not, veggie friends! As I confirmed to a stalwart bud and long-time vegetarian this very morning, a good handful of roughly chopped meaty mushrooms (such as oyster or chestnut) would happily take the place of the pancetta in this recipe — though you will need to reduce the cooking time slightly by about 5 minutes to keep them from “wilting” too much.
BONUS: well if it ain’t my old friend, the one-pot…
Pan-fried Gnocchi with Pancetta & Sage (Gluten-free**)
Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 25 mins
Large frying pan; paper towels; slotted spoon; cutting equipment, such as a knife or decorative dagger; a friend, partner, lover, or stranger you picked up off the street.
- 500g gnocchi (I was going to try out this thing called ‘portion control’ and only use 2/3 of the packet but who am I to judge the packaging industry?)
- 70g diced pancetta
- 1 onion (red or white)
- 1 clove garlic
- 10 sage leaves
- 2 heaping tbsp half fat crème fraîche
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- Splash of white wine (optional)
- Splash of water (many splashes will occur in this recipe – roll with it)
- 35g rocket
- 2 tsp light spread or butter
- Low calorie cooking spray
- Splash of oil (told you)
- Black pepper
- Get your pan on a medium-high heat and mist with cooking spray, or add some oil if using. Finely dice your onion and garlic (keeping them separate from each other) and open the pancetta; buying pre-diced is much easier than getting slices then having to chop them up. Once the pan is hot, add the onion and pancetta and cook for around 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is getting crispy and the onions are soft and starting to colour. Take everything out of the pan with a slotted spoon and leave on some paper towels to drain.
- If the pancetta has let out a lot of fat, carefully wipe around the pan (off the heat) with some wadded-up paper towels before returning to the heat. Roll up the sage leaves together into a cigar shape then slice as finely as possible down the “cigar” (this is known as a chiffonade, which sounds a lot fancier than it is). Add the butter/spread and a splash more oil to the pan then immediately add the sage and the gnocchi. Leave to cook for 5-10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally and turning the gnocchi to ensure that it’s browning evenly. Add the wine (loooove that sizzle) halfway through this time.
- Once the gnocchi is getting a good bit of colour on it, add the pancetta mixture back to the pan and season everything with a good twist/pinch of pepper. Spoon in the crème fraîche and mustard and add a splash of water to loosen the sauce. Stir, and divide between two pasta bowls. Give your rocket a rinse (check the packet to see if this is needed), then top the gnocchi with the rocket.
I can’t believe I just put together a gnocchi dish that didn’t have cheese in it. Who am I? Someone who did a 30 second plank this morning, that’s who. I’LL HAVE ABS IN NO TIME – WATCH OUT, WORLD.
Anyway, time to fill my glass with merriment (though I don’t know how it’ll fit next to the wine) — eat well, my friends.
*Unfortunately the portmanteau of ‘meatery’ was actually too good, and ended up not making any sense. Also it just took me 10 tries to spell ‘portmanteau’.
**Gluten-free gnocchi is available in some supermarkets and most delis, but be careful; gnocchi is traditionally made with potato and flour, so check the ingredients list and allergen warnings if GF is a must for you.