Chickpea gnocchi with market vegetables: Italy, meet the Middle East

Chickpea gnocchetti — gnocchetti di ceci— little knuckles of garbanzo beans and flour— combine two of my favorite things: the Middle East and Italy.

This recipe is inspired by one I found in an old issue of La Cucina Italianathat I fished out of a neighbor’s recycling. (Who throws away La Cucina Italiana?) I’ve made gnocchi from ricotta, from semolina, and of course from potatoes, but the idea of using one of my favorite ingredients— hummus! falafel! — never occurred to me, until I looked in my neighbor’s throwaways.

The Italians consider these little gnocchi a winter dish, because the dumplings are a bit heartier than their pillowy potato cousins. But I tossed them in a light mix of summer vegetables and herbs, and they were…killer. Come fall, they will definitely go into heavy weeknight rotation with cubes of butternut squash, shallots and mushrooms.

You’ll want a gnocchi board. You won’t need it, because you can easily shape gnocchi with the press of a thumb, as demonstrated in the only memorable scene from “Godfather 3:”

You may or may not be swept away by passionate illicit love with Andy Garcia and/or Sofia Coppola, but there is a meditative aspect to making gnocchi, rolling each little piece down the simple wooden board, sliding it into that perfect, familiar shape. You can get all the mindfulness practice you need, plus have something to eat afterwards.

This serves 4 people as a main dish, 6 as a side.

Ingredients

Gnocchetti:
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
2 large eggs
2 T. water
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 cup flour

Sauce:
6 medium zucchini, a mix of yellow and green, sliced very thin OR whatever vegetables are in season (small diced butternut squash, chopped mushrooms, etc.)
1 onion, halved and sliced very thin
8 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 c. best quality olive oil
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino romano
salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Add drained garbanzos, eggs, salt and water to a blender and process until very smooth.
  2. Scrape into a bowl, add flour, and mix with hands until you have a nice, pliable ball. You may need to add a bit more water or flour to get the right consistency. Knead a couple of times until smooth.
  3. Divide dough into four pieces. Roll each into a 1/2-inch thick rope.
  4. Sprinkle ropes with flour. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
  5. Roll each piece down a floured gnocchi board. Simply use your thumb to press the piece against the board as you follow it down. Alternatively, press each piece against a fork or cutting board as you roll it.
  6. Boil a gallon of water. Add some salt. Add gnocchetti to boiling water, return to boil, and cook about three minutes. Taste: they should be cooked through. (You can toss with olive oil and let cool, then refrigerate the gnocchi for up to a few days. Reheat as needed).
  7. Remove with strainer and add to sauce. Serve warm with grated cheese.

Sauce Instructions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  1. On your largest sheet pan, add all the ingredients except the cheese and parsley. Stir to blend. Roast until the vegetables begin to brown. You want some very well-caramelized pieces of onion, zucchini tinged with the color of an old Victrola. Turn off oven. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
  2. Remove from oven. Add gnocchetti and stock. Stir well and let sit in the hot oven for 10-20 minutes to absorb the flavors. Alternatively, dump everything into a large skillet and keep warm over very low heat.
  3. Add parsley and cheese, toss and serve.
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Chickpea gnocchi with market vegetables: Italy, meet the Middle East

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