Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops {spring fever}

0414 Asparagus Gnocchi and Scallops-pinterest.jpg

Yippeee! yahooo! It’s SPRING!

Why am I so excited, you may ask? Well, you probably don’t ask–who doesn’t like spring?

I am so excited because…WE GET TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. Cold, wet, grey weather does NOT mix well with young, active children. I can categorically declare that I can build just about anything with Legos and that I know every word in Frozen. It’s time to move on to outside activities.

  • Outside activity #1: Farmers Markets. They’re back! Local produce, local artisans, and scooters–our preferred mode of best-way-to-wear-the-kids-out transportation.
  • Outside activity #2: Gardening. I love having the kids help me plant plants, watch them grow, pick the flowers/veggies. We just have a small city patio and garden space but it’s still plenty to give them some exposure to what it’s like to grow your own produce and plants.
  • Outside activity #3: Playground Happy Hour. Oh come on, you’ve never taken the kids to the playground after school, met up with other parent friends, and brought a little special bevvie?

In addition to outside enjoyment, springtime fare is just the best. Some of the most delicious, and most elusive or short-lived, ingredients come to pass during spring so you’ve got to take advantage of them. Ramps, fiddlehead ferns, morels, and of course asparagus!

A friend gave me asparagus fresh-picked from his garden with a bottle of Gruner Vetliner–a perfect pairing with asparagus. So I wanted to create an easy, delicious dish that highlighted the asparagus but didn’t overpower the wine. And I wanted to use some fresh herbs from my garden. And I had a farmers market leek in the fridge.

0414 Asparagus Gnocchi and Scallops-3

Herby Asparagus and Leek Gnocchi with Scallops was born. A little strategically, a little kitchen sinky, a lot deliciously.

It looks and sounds all fancy so is great for a special weekend meal, but honestly I made it on a Wednesday in 20 minutes with mostly ingredients I had on hand. So it can double as a mid-week pick-me-up. And the kids love the gnocchi, so it’s an easy sell.

I actually created this dish specifically to pair with a Lagler Gruner Vetliner that was given to me. It’s crisp enough to compliment the asparagus, but has enough body to hold up to the gnocchi and scallops.


Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Asparagus Gnocchi with Scallops


  • 1 pound packaged gnocchi?
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • ?1 Tablespoon olive oil?
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced?
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus?
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs (I used a mix of chives, parsley, tarragon, oregano, basil)?
  • 1 pound fresh sea scallops?
  • salt and pepper


  1. Boil the gnocchi according to package directions. While you’re bringing the water to a boil, prepare the sauce. 
  2. Trim the asparagus where the tough, woody stem naturally breaks off. Then cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook just until tender but not brown--5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the asparagus and cook just until crisp-tender, only about a minute or two. Toss in herbs and drained gnocchi. Cover and set aside. 
  5. In a clean large skillet (I just wipe clean the skillet I just used for gnocchi), melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high to high heat (you want to get it really hot, but not smoking or the butter will burn). Pat the scallops very dry and season with salt and pepper. When the butter begins to sizzle, place the scallops into the pan with at least an inch of space between them.
  6. After 2 minutes, flip. Outside of the single flip DO NOT TOUCH the scallops. After another 2 minutes, remove.
  7. Place the gnocchi on a plate and garnish with scallops. Serve with a seasonal green salad.
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***this was updated from an original post in May, 2013, with new photography. Like it?

Weekend roundup: Christmas Eve dinner, holiday side dishes, dessert for breakfast

The last weekend before the holidays! How did that happen?!? Are you scrambling for anything this weekend?

I just remembered that Santa is supposed actually bring presents for the children so I, uh, made sure he had some…

cioppino2I’m totally excited to make cioppino for Christmas Eve dinner. It’s like a riff on the feast of seven fishes meets San Fran meets just plain awesome. Even though it’s not hard to make, we don’t seem to make it outside of Christmas Eve so I get so excited when it’s that time of year again. Do you have a traditional Christmas Eve meal?

Lots of great stuff around the web on holiday sides and decadent sweet breakfast ideas. Read on…  [Read more...]

A legendary party

1211 legendary party introWhat do you put on the birthday menu for the guy that’s been kickin it strong for 70 years? Whatever the heck he wants.

My father in law loves filet mignon. He loves shrimp cocktail. He loves all things Italian. And he loves great wine. Pretty good taste, right?

So for his 70th birthday party we did a soiree at his place with all his favorites. And despite a late afternoon presentation to senior executives, a mad dash to the market to pick up the heirloom carrots special ordered for me, and an hour drive to get to their place, it truly couldn’t have been easier. This would work great for an easy holiday gathering as well, either as a sit down menu or a buffet.  [Read more...]

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs kids cooking foodFeatured Recipe: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Featured Pairing: Chianti (why mess with a classic?)

There is nothing better than a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs on a cold winter night, especially if your kids are doing most of the cooking! Mixing and shaping are a great activity for little hands if they’re old enough to know to wash their hands after touching raw ingredients. Conveniently leaving your hands free for supervising and sipping.

This recipe makes enough for 8 servings of meatballs. I like to freeze half of them individually on a cookie sheet, and then transfer them to a vacuum sealed bag. Then just add them to your sauce and simmer for 20 minutes or so. That way you can have sketti night any night!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsServes a big meal for 4 with enough meatballs for a second dinner


Meatballs IngredientsMeatballs:
1 cup course homemade bread crumbs (torn up pieces of stale bread, or fresh bread if you don’t have stale)
1 cup milk
1 medium onion (or 1/2 large), minced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped (or parsley if you don’t have celery tops laying around)
1 pound lead ground beef
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion (or 1/2 large), diced
1 clove garlic
1 glass of red wine, optional
1 quart canned tomatoes, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound pasta
fresh basil, optional
extra cheese, optional (who are you kidding?)


Start the sauce. Saute onions in olive oil until translucent, approx 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and heat through, 1 minute. If you like, pour that glass of wine you’re drinking in; while the wine cooks down, refill yourself. When the wine is nearly gone (in the pot), pour in the tomatoes and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, then put it on the back burner on low until the meatballs are done.

Heat the oven to 400.

Kid-friendly cooking. From here on out, nearly all of the steps are kid-friendly for ages 4 and up. But first give them lectures on the need for clean hands, and make sure they know not to put their fingers in their mouth after touching the raw meat.

spaghetti and meatballs kids cooking collageIn a small bowl, combine the milk and bread bits. Let sit while you do the rest.

In a large bowl, crack the eggs and lightly whisk them. Add the onions, garlic, celery, meats, cheese, and seasonings. With your hands, scoop the bread out of the milk and add to the large bowl. You may have a bit of leftover milk that you’ll need to discard, but the bread should have soaked up a good portion of it.

Form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and inch or two apart. If your hands get too sticky, run them under cold water and you’ll be good to go. This is a good time to get dad to jump in and help too. You should make approx 32 meatballs.

End kid-friendly cooking.

Put the meatballs in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the meatballs are brown and just cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, stir a cup or so of sauce over the pasta so it doesn’t stick.

When the meatballs are done, toss them into the sauce just to coat.

Serve meatballs and sauce over pasta, topped with fresh basil and cheese.spaghetti and meatballs with copySpaghetti and meatballs kids cooking food

Happy Thanksgiving!

brining turkeyHappy Thanksgiving all!

I am so thankful for my amazing family and friends and all the wonderful things that life has brought us. This year we’re keeping it low key at home since we have another amazing celebration to look forward to this weekend–my brother-in-law is getting married!

I hope you’re Thanksgiving is filled with wonderful family, friends, and food! Here’s what we’ve got on our “plate” for tomorrow: [Read more...]

The week in food

pizza making CollageOnce a week I usually lay out what I plan to make for the following week with a list so I can gather all of the ingredients in one go. Then I get completely distracted by farmers markets, sales at the grocery, or the arrival of my Food and Wine mag so my plan evolves, or devolves. Either way, it’s usually delicious and generally pretty economical. Here’s what evolved this week. What’s your favorite weeknight cooking tip? [Read more...]

Skipping right to leftovers

Where's the egg? I ate it already.

A couple years ago, after making corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day, I had some left over. This led to a great discovery – corned beef hash. With an egg on top. We like it so much that now I just make the corned beef and turn it right into hash. This week we got potatoes, cabbage, and onions in our CSA delivery so all we needed at the store was the beef brisket.  [Read more...]