“Urda” Gnocchi with wild garlic pesto


A long time ago I tried to make gnocchi. The plot involved an Italian boyfriend, sleep deprivation and a fabulous walnut sauce. The plot, alas, got lost: The gnocchi dissolved into something akin to prisoner of war camp potato soup or being more charitable: wallpaper paste. The fabulous sauce dried up and was never used. The boyfriend sneered. I sulked.

Fast forward a number of years, a desire to vanquish the gnocchi demon and a sneaking suspicion that some little dumplings made with “Urda” (a Romanian ricotta like cheese made from whey and very high in protein) and sexed up with a fabulous pesto would work. And work it does. 

Gnocchi work well with all manner of sauces but they seem particularly delicious with a more piquant sauce…this garlicky, lemony, almondy sauce does the trick.

These gnocchi are fast, they freeze (use direct from the freezer) and they work with many sauces. Give them a go and you will have a wonderful earthy comfort food dish mastered perhaps a bit faster than I managed.

Ingredients: Gnocchi for 4  normal appetites or 2 greedy/starving people

500g Urda  (I like to use the “capra” (goat) version if I can find it)

150g flour

2 -3 eggs depending on how dry/wet your urda is

A bit of nutmeg (half a teaspoon)

40g grated parmesan (not a disaster if you omit)

semolina (“gris”) for rolling the gnocchi in

1 250ml jar of wild garlic pesto


How To

To make the gnocchi try and channel all your best grandmother and dumplings energy. What you want is a nice moist dough (don’t overwork it) that doesn’t crumble yet is not overly sticky. Take a large bowl and crumble in your “Urda” and crack 2 eggs in. Sprinkle in approximately 1 tsp nutmeg and the parmesan. Add the flour and now just use your hands. Squish and mix until it comes together. If its too dry add another egg. 

Divide the dough into four and roll each piece into a sausage. Cut into little discs. As you cut the discs you can reform them to be circular (I did but it’s a bit anally retentive) or leave them kind of “lozenge” shaped after the cutting and use a fork to indent them (supposedly to capture more sauce). I left mine on a tray covered with flour for a good couple of hours. I had a hunch (or a fear) that they needed to “sit” and meld and this would reduce chances of disintegration on cooking. If you want to freeze them, put your tray in the freezer and when they are frozen pop them into bags.


Get a big saucepan of water boiling. Drop in a batch of gnocchi and wait until they float to the top. Leave them to cook 2-3 minutes and then drain with a slotted spoon in a bowl with a little melted butter. You can cook them direct from frozen (yayyy!) but they take approx 10 minutes in total and lurk for longer at the bottom of the saucepan before deciding to float. When all the gnocchi are cooked quickly return to the pan (after you tip the water out) to use its heat and swirl in the pesto.

Serve the gnocchi topped with parmesan or another grated cheese and fresh parsley in warm bowls or plates.

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