Soft potato gnocchis laying on a tomato sauce, topped with crispy cured ham, shaved parmesan and crunchy arugula to spice things up. A mouthful of flavours and textures!Soft potato gnocchis laying on a tomato sauce, topped with crispy cured ham, shaved parmesan and crunchy arugula to spice things up. A mouthful of flavours and textures!

Gnocchi a la Maria Pia

This recipe is so easy, fast and frankly too good tasting for the time and preparation it needs. It’s a bit like a cheating dish, too easy to be this good. It’s not a traditional “Italian” dish, it’s a personal experiment that turned out to be one of my favorite way to enjoy those little potato dumplings. It’s a dish filled with flavours and textures, in one bite you’ll get a smooth gnocchi and it’s coating of tomato sauce and a crunchy factor whether it’s the salty crispy ham or the fresh arugula. A dream dish, plus with all those textures and colors going, a perfect romantic dish for Valentines.


gnocchi di patateLet’s talk gnocchis for a sec… They look like pasta and come with a sauce like pasta but they are not pasta, they are potato dumplings. First of all, I chose premade gnocchis from the market, if you want to make your own check this recipe from an Italian guy (here) which explain from a to z about the gnocchis world. Another big difference is the way you cook the gnocchis, you should not add any salt to the water like with pasta, because the starch from the potato would come out and make them sticky, we don’t want that we want our gnocchis fluffy not sticky. Gnocchis should be dropped in the boiling water and than as soon as they come up, pick them up with a slotted spoon. There is no “al dente” rule when we talk gnocchis, just a drop and pick up rule.

Some extra textures to a smooth dish

Crispy cured ham; I’ve learned this trick in culinary school and no it’s not destroying the delicious ham already processed, it just enhancing it and changing its texture, that’s all. It somehow forces the residual water out, some extra fat out and make the ham ultra salty and crisp. It’s not cooking long enough to deteriorate anything. It’s mainly a texture thing, I love a meal to have many textures to contrast a little. For example this smooth gnocchi on a smooth tomato sauce need a touch of crunch to make it exciting, don’t you think? The arugula has a fresh crunch and the crispy cured ham brings the extra salt and crips. A perfect mix of textures and flavours!


Cupid’s Gnocchis

Makes 2 portions | Difficulty: Easy | Preparation: 10 minutes

Gnocchi a la Maria PiaIngredients
  • 500g gnocchi di patate
  • 400g tomato sauce 
  • 70g of cured ham (serrano, prosciutto)
  • arugula
  • parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano)
  1. Start by making the crisp cured ham; add them on a baking sheet at 180°C (350F) for about 3-4 minutes or until crisp.
  2. Warm up the sauce, add to plates
  3. Add the gnocchi in a big pot of boiling water (unsalted) and pick them up with a slotted spoon once they surface
  4. Add the gnocchis over the tomato sauce, break a few crisp cured ham on top, arugula and shave a few parmesan pieces with the peeler.


Gnocchi a la Maria Pia

Roquefort and Arugula Pasta (1).jpg

I had some leftovers from that dipping sauce, from the hot habanero chicken wings, I’ve used my leftover into pasta, add a little arugula, chives and voilà! The version, I’ll write here, is the real recipe I usually use to make my blue cheese pasta sauce… I know, most people would use the creamy gorgonzola, not a roquefort like I do… But I’m such a strong flavoured cheese lover, and the gorgonzola, never hits my taste buds strong enough, sure the creamy texture of gorgonzola is nice compared with the dried Roquefort but I’d rather get the taste then the texture. Everyone has their own preference, mine is “Roquefort”.

Roquefort and Arugula PastaFrom all the cheeses out there… I couldn’t choose a favorite. I ‘m a BIG goat cheese lover, a sharp old gouda lover, a fresh mozzarella lover, etc… I love them all… couldn’t choose one as my favorite! Impossible mission! Although, for blue cheese it’s quite the opposite, I do have  a favorite… Roquefort. I mean, I tried many blue cheese, but this Roquefort one is simply my blue cheese love story. Ok, sorry… I won’t get too sentimental about it.

The legend of the Roquefort cheese is that a young man was eating his lunch at the entrance of a cave in south of France, when he saw a young lady of his type and decide to pursuit her, leaving his cheese and baguette behind. For a few weeks, the mold from this special cave infested the cheese. When the young man came back and saw that his cheese had changed into what we know today as Roquefort. Also, in 1925, the cheese became the first AOC product ever, from France.

So let’s get those bellies full of delicious Roquefort!

Roquefort and Arugula Pasta

Makes 4 portions

Roquefort and Arugula PastaIngredients
  • 500g pasta of your choice
  • 100g Roquefort
  • 50g Arugula leaves
  • 200ml creme fraiche (30% cream)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook your pasta, in salty water, the way you like them
  2. In a small sauce pan add the cream and roquefort, low heat until the roquefort is completely melted into the cream
  3. Add pepper and salt
  4. Drain the pasta
  5. Mix the pasta and the Roquefort sauce
  6. Add the chives, arugula leaves and check the seasoning (salt, pepper, love lots of the pepper in my cream sauces)

Serve with a side of tomato salad and a good wine, Enjoy!



Beets pesto

Beets-pistachio Pesto Kamut Fusilli can be surprising for some, but you should try it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. I’ve made this recipe with kamut fusilli, the ancestor of modern wheat, but also a filled with health benefits grain. Kamut is a whole grain, a great alternative for low-carb diet and diabetics. Although since brown pasta is not so appealing to the eye… we need to find a tasty way to make us forget about that color. That’s when the red beets pesto comes in the game! A healthy,tasty and colorful pesto that hides this less attractive brown pasta.beetpestopin

I’m a big beets lover, but sadly there are often put aside because of their earthy flavor, but when used in combination with salty goat cheese and pistachios it balance out great the heavy earthy taste from the beetroot. Plus, Beets have that great ruby red color which make a great base for a romantic dinner, for you lovers out there. Without saying it’s an extremely healthy meal on many levels, here is why;

Beets pesto topBeets are a “one of a kind” roots, not only do they have that special color, texture and flavor, they are crazy healthy. Those benefits are, for example, the folates which reduce the risk of birth defects, lowers blood pressure, boost your stamina, etc. Also, another main attribute is to detox your liver, when filled with toxins, the beetroot help to clean up that mess. Another health benefit from beets would be; it helps antioxidant enzymes build up in your body and increase your white blood cells, which are the bad cells warriors. So you want lots of those guys to keep the enemies out. Result; beetroot is a magic root!

Since it’s a quite healthy root vegetable, I had to put some extra cheese on it, just to bring it down a notch. Feta or goat cheese is a great combination with it, the salt and the creamy factor help out the beet earthiness. The arugula on top is to spice things up a bit and the pistachios to makes it salty, crunchy, plus it adds a great contrasting color to the ruby red pesto.

Let’s make this healthy, delicious meal going!

Beets pesto pasta

  • 2-3 medium sized precooked beets
  • 30 ml of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 60g pistachios
  • 50g feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt, pepper
The toppings
  • 500g pasta (your favorite whole grain pasta; kamut, quinoa, etc)
  • few arugula leaves
  • crumbled feta
  • crushed pistachios
  1. In a mixer, blend all the pesto ingredients.
  2. Cook your pasta.
  3. Drain the pasta, then add the pesto to the bottom of the still warm pot (in order to heat it up with the residual heat)
  4. Add the pasta on top and mix well,
  5. Add a splash of olive oil
  6. Serve with the toppings and extra crunched pistachios

You could substitute the arugula for some fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!