Gnocchi with Tomatoes, Pancetta and Wilted Watercress

On the never-ending search for easy and delicious weekday dinners for the whole family, we stumbled on this gem.

It’s an old one from eatingwell.com and it caught our attention because of the use of wilted watercress. I couldn’t recall every using watercress like that, so gave it a go.

What went well and what didn’t:
A nice and straightforward recipe with a tasty and balanced tomato sauce. We only used the crushed red pepper afterwards to spice the dish for the grown ups. The wilted watercress was a nice addition, but its flavour does not really stand out. The shortcut using the boiling water from the gnocchi for wilting is great though.

We used some thinly sliced pancetta that we cubed, but after cooking the sauce there was not much of it left. Therefore, do use lardons or cut dice from big rashers of pancetta or bacon. Leaving it out for a vegetarian version is of course possible.

Recipe accuracy:
The recipe is easy to follow, but with only 500g of gnocchi, I reckon it would only serve 3. We doubled the entire recipe to make ahead for the next day, but had only 2 portions left after the first day.

Recipe (serves 3-4)

  • 60g / 2 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 2 tsp red-wine vinegar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 500g / 18oz  gnocchi
  • 120g / 4 oz watercress, tough stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 60g  / 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil.
  2. In the meantime cook pancetta in a large non stick frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  4. Then add tomatoes, sugar and crushed red pepper (if using)  and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes are almost completely broken down, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in vinegar and salt and remove from the heat.
  6. Cook gnocchi in the boiling water until they float, about 3-5 minutes
  7. Place watercress in a colander and drain the gnocchi over the watercress, wilting it slightly.
  8. Add the gnocchi and watercress to the sauce and stir until combined.
  9. Serve immediately with the grated Parmesan.

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Suggested tweaks:
Next time, I’d swap the watercress with some spinach to give it some more flavour and use a lot more to up the veg intake.

Verdict: 8/10; Will be made again.

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