Gnocchi is a pillowy potato pasta typically boiled in water like other pastas, but a recent trend in roasting all of the ingredients for a meal on a single sheet pan has inspired a new way to cook them. Shelf-stable or refrigerated gnocchi can be roasted straight out of the package, resulting in a crispy, chewy texture. Bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, basil, and garlic round out the meal.
This year for book club, my choice was The Italian Party, a novel set in 1950s Sienna and “teeming with seduction and spycraft.” My menu was inspired by food from the book and centered on this Ribollita, a stew of kale, tomatoes, and beans, thickened with day-old bread. It’s a recipe and style of cooking thought of as “poor cooking” and making the most of what you have, but it was a beautiful dish to serve to friends with wine, Cacio e Pepe, and delightful discussion of a great story.
This dish was inspired by Martha Stewart’s one-pot pasta dish that creates its own sauce as it cooks. Combine water, farro, thinly sliced onions and garlic, and cherry tomatoes, and cook until the farro is tender and the onions and tomatoes have melted into the perfect sauce.
This recipe was a bit ambitious for a weeknight in our house, but is a winning combination of creamy farro and Parmesan cheese, grated butternut squash, and (perfect for holiday leftovers) diced ham. Farro contains the same amount of calories as rice, but more fiber and protein, so it’s a great nutritional choice.
This year we did the unthinkable, though we didn’t know it at the time. We sold our house and bought a new one at the same time in the Austin market, all with a toddler underfoot. Our realtor didn’t tell us until it was over that it was crazy, and that no one ever does a buy/sell in this market.
Our new house required renovations, and by the time we moved in, we were pretty fried. Neighbor Night Out was three weeks later, and our cut-de-sac does it in style, so we needed to have a dish to share with our new neighbors.
We unpacked our popcorn popper, cut some fresh rosemary from our new backyard, and made this popcorn. It was just the right thing to break the ice, and the neighbors loved it (even the kids).