Pasta dish reflects volatile spring

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The unpredictable nature of spring — warm one moment, frigid the next — makes us hanker for dishes that reflect the season's maybe-maybe not feel.

And that was the inspiration for this dish, which blends one of the heartiest of winter pastas — potato gnocchi — with asparagus, a light vegetable that has come to represent one of surest signs of spring. We wanted protein, too, but nothing as heavy as meat, nor as light as beans or tofu. Shrimp, which pairs nicely with asparagus, was the perfect choice.

To tie it all together, we started robust with some crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. And to balance those bold flavors, a light squeeze of lemon juice.

Spring Gnocchi with Asparagus and Shrimp

Start to finish: 20 minutes;Servings: 6

Gnocchi can be found in three sections of the grocer: the freezer section (along with the frozen ravioli), the pasta aisle (in shelf-stable containers) and alongside the fresh pasta in the refrigerated case.

Two 16- to 18-ounce packages gnocchi

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound peeled, deveined raw shrimp

4 ounces watercress

1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook according to package directions, then drain and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add lemon zest and cook until butter begins to be fragrant and just begins to brown. Immediately add salt, pepper, asparagus and shrimp. Cook until asparagus and shrimp are tender and cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Add gnocchi to the pan and toss to coat. Divide gnocchi between 6 serving plates, then top each portion with watercress, Gorgonzola and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Per serving: 510 calories; 120 calories from fat (24 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 150 mg cholesterol; 70 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 31 g protein; 1190 mg sodium.