10-Minute Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi Get a Spring Makeover With Asparagus and Prosciutto

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

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Tender ricotta gnocchi in a lemony sauce with asparagus and prosciutto. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

A few weeks back I showed you that you can make fresh ricotta gnocchi in less time than it takes to boil a pot of water. It's absolutely the fastest fresh pasta recipe I know. With a little practice, I've gotten it down to under ten minutes (8 minutes 53 seconds, to be precise). But the great part about this recipe is that it serves as a suitable base for a huge variety of sauces and flavors. It's one of those dishes you can pull out year-round, just changing up the toppings to suit the seasons. For instance, last week a friend of mine brought over some delicious first-of-the-season fresh asparagus which we turned into an impromptu meal on the spot.

Since then I've tweaked the recipe a bit, adding some lemon zest to the cream sauce and fine-tuning the aromatics, but the basic premise is still a very simple one. Starting 100% from scratch, you should be able to make the gnocchi and the sauce in just about half an hour.

I start by sautéing some thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta in olive oil until crisp and rendered, then add some green garlic ('tis the season, though thin-sliced scallions or even shallots both taste great) and some minced garlic to the mix. As soon as they become aromatic, I add my asparagus, which I've sliced on a bias. You could peel the asparagus if you like, but it seems like overkill for such a simple dish.

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Once the asparagus has just started to soften, I add a glug of heavy cream.

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As Daniel has demonstrated, cream, when reduced in a skillet, can turn into a rich, silky sauce all on its own with just a few aromatics, no need for any thickener or stock at all. At first it'll seem like the cream will just slick off of the asparagus and prosciutto, but as it cooks down...

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...it should start to coat things nicely. Once it reaches a saucy consistency, I grate in some Parmesan cheese and season it with salt and pepper to taste.

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The cooked gnocchi go into the pan along with a small splash of their cooking water, a squeeze of lemon, some lemon zest, and a big bunch of chopped chives. It looks like I might have gone a bit overboard with my cream to pasta ratio. You will make no such error. Unless you'd like to. The Italians tend to be very particular about their sauce-to-pasta ratio.

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I tend to be very particular about not taking very particular people too seriously (but yes, I tinkered with the ratios a bit to arrive at the dish above which has just enough cream sauce to coat the gnocchi and asparagus while also leaving a tiny bit behind in the bowl for scooping up with bread at the end of the meal).

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How's that for fast food?