If tasked with making a healthy, high-energy dish for world-class tennis players, I’d probably do a health-conscious makeover of a familiar dish. That’s exactly what Italian chef Fabio Viviani did with his whole wheat gnocchi and pork ragout. Despite it being a winner of a dish, K had to work hard to convince me to tackle this one. Not because it seemed particularly difficult — we’ve made gnocchi many times before — but because I feared whole wheat gnocchi would be heavy and I also dreaded the tedious process of making it.
However, as it often does, deliciousness won me over. The store was completely out of ground pork so I purchased two big Niman Ranch pork chops and ground them up in our little food processor (aka food chopper). Grinding our own meat ! I felt very pioneer woman (with … you know, electricity and a food chopper).
The meat ground, we set about chopping zucchini and fennel. Incidentally: The check out guy at the grocery store laughed at me for buying just one zucchini. He said in his country (in Eastern Europe) that you buy produce by the basketful and that I would have been an insult to the seller. We only needed one zucchini! He assured me he was not insulted. International incident averted.
As K was caramelizing the fennel and zucchini mixture and started sautéing the pork with fennel seed, garlic, butter, chicken stock and olive oil, I began trudging through the whole wheat gnocchi. The more whole wheat flour I added, the more I feared the things would sink like lead weights into the boiling water, never to rise again.
The water boiling and the other elements near completion, I dropped the gnocchi in and hoped. The gnocchi quickly rose to the surface and boiling them seemed to take their floury edge off.
When K plated everything, it looked very … brown. The gnocchi was toast-brown, the veggies were caramelized, the pork was khaki-colored. We popped a pretty fennel frond on top just for some greenery. Despite the brownness (brownocity?) of the meal, it was surprisingly good — not heavy, but substantial. The pork was buttery, with a hint of anise, which the caramelized zucchini and fennel picked up perfectly. The gnocchi was fluffy, but wheaty and well-rounded.
This would make a great Sunday night meal to help you ride out the cold winter in comfort and style. If you’re lucky (like we were), you’ll have leftover pork ragout to put on a crusty roll and make a simple and tasty sandwich. Two brown meals, twice as nice!