Here in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, winter is beginning to lose its charm. When I heard that warmer weather was coming, I was sorry at first that we would lose our snow, but then the warmth came and I thought, “Hey, I remember this! I love spring!” Of course we have a ways to go until spring really comes here, but it got my mind going on a great food tradition—the spring tonic. That’s what Gnocchi with Hazelnut-Parsley Sauce is. Delicious and zingy and fast, this dish only takes about 20 minutes to make, but you can feel it making your blood all happy and pure and light while you munch each tasty morsel.
The sauce takes less time to make than it takes to boil the water to cook the gnocchi. You toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet (these are the kind of hazelnuts that are already shelled and blanched when you buy them), grind them up, chop the parsley and garlic, slice the grape tomatoes and juice the lemon, toss it all together with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and salt and pepper, and voila! Hazelnut-Parsley Sauce!
I don’t cook with raw garlic much any more, but in this dish it works handsomely with the parsley and lemon juice to really make the sauce sparkle. Combined with the comforting little gnocchi and the crunchy, sweet hazelnuts, this high-protein dish would make a great lunch for friends; can be served with a vegetable-based soup for a tasty no-meat dinner; or it makes an easy pasta course that holds its own on a bigger dinner party menu. You can make the sauce up to one day ahead, but allow it to return to room temperature before serving.