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Feta Gnocchi with Lemony Yogurt and Spring Peas

A crisp exterior surrounds the creamy, tangy center in these feta gnocchi. The dough is easily doubled and can be shaped and frozen for a quick make-ahead meal.
PHOTO: 

VICTOR PROTASIO / FOOD STYLING BY RUTH BLACKBURN / PROP STYLING BY RISHA CARNES

Active Time:
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs
Servings:
4 servings

It’s hard to envision an upgrade for gnocchi, an arguably already perfect, versatile potato dumpling that you can boil, bake or fry. Still, chef Cassie Piuma of the revered Somerville, Massachusetts-based Mediterranean restaurant Sarma (which happens to be one of my personal favorite spots to visit when I’m craving the Turkish food I grew up around), decided to try — and thank goodness for that impulse.

By swapping out the classic potato for fluffy feta cheese, Piuma’s seasonal riff on the classic dish takes on a briny, salty flavor profile you never knew it desperately needed. Topped with crunchy fresh sugar and snap peas as well as a generous serving of crushed red pepper and dill, this spring-ified gnocchi finds its home atop a bed of lemony, garlic-scented strained yogurt, because this is Sarma, after all. Once you’ve finished the last pillowy, slightly acidic, crunchy bite, you’ll find it hard to decide what the main lesson from the dish is — maybe it’s that every food can be improved with a dollop of yogurt, or maybe it’s that feta cheese will beat out potatoes in any match-up. Either way, Sarma has changed my relationship with gnocchi forever. — Oset Bab├╝r-Winter

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole milk

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (5 ounces)

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/4 ounces)

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (such as dill, flat-leaf parsley, and mint), plus more for garnish

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

  • 9 ounces vacuum-sealed feta cheese (not in brine), crumbled (about 1 3/4 cups)

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk strained (Greek-style) yogurt

  • teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), divided 

  • 2 garlic cloves, grated

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

  • Blanched English peas and sliced sugar snap peas, for serving

  • Flaky sea salt and crushed red pepper, for garnish

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Directions

  1. Bring milk, 6 tablespoons butter, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, dried mint, and dried oregano to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; add flour all at once, and stir rapidly using a wooden spoon until dough ball forms, pulls away from sides, and bottom of pan is clean, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, until dough leaves film on bottom and sides of pan and no longer steams, 4 to 5 minutes.

  2. Place dough in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add mustard, herbs, and fennel; beat on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add feta, and beat on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. With mixer running on medium-low speed, add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Increase mixer speed to high, and beat until dough is soft, smooth, and sticky, about 2 minutes. Transfer dough to a disposable pastry bag; tie top of bag using kitchen twine. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.

  3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring a large saucepan of water to a vigorous simmer over high. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cut the end off the tip of pastry bag to create a 3/4-inch opening. Working in about 4 batches (about 30 batter pieces per batch), pipe dough straight down, just above simmering water, cutting dough at 1-inch lengths using a paring knife or scissors. Adjust heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. Once gnocchi rise to surface, simmer over medium-low, undisturbed, until very soft and just set, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Using a spider strainer or slotted spoon, remove gnocchi, draining as much water as possible before transferring to prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Repeat process with remaining dough. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

  4. Whisk together yogurt, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

  5. Working in 2 batches, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over high until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Add half of the gnocchi (about 21/2 cups); cook, tossing and gently stirring often, until golden brown in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to a large plate; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat process with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and remaining gnocchi.

  6. To serve, divide yogurt mixture evenly among 4 plates; top evenly with gnocchi. Sprinkle with peas. Garnish with fresh herbs, flaky sea salt, and crushed red pepper.