Paella Gnocchi

Jennifer Jasinski

Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall, Rioja, and Stoic & Genuine, Denver

"This dish quickly became a signature at Rioja. It was conceived one day as I was thinking of paella and deconstructing its flavors and ingredients. I thought that the saffron would make a flavorful gnocchi, but to be unconventional and tie the rice component into the dish, we crust the gnocchi in raw, ground rice. The texture of the fluffy gnocchi with the rice crust was beyond my expectations — so great and fun to eat. The freshest seafood and an orange-scented chicken sausage combine to make this dish a hit!" —JBF Award Winner Jennifer Jasinski


Saffron Gnocchi:

  • 1 1/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons saffron
  • 2 1/2 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Tomato Broth:

  • 1/4 cup pure olive oil
  • 1/4 cup peeled garlic cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Chicken Sausage Meatballs:

  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 pound skinless white chicken meat (kept cold)
  • 6 ounces fatback (skinned, kept cold)
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Finishing the Gnocchi:

  • 1 cup raw jasmine rice
  • 1 cup canola oil, or as needed

Paella Accompaniments:

  • 24 PEI (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia) mussels
  • 16 MSC certified Skull Island prawns
  • 40 chicken sausage meatballs
  • 2 cups East Cost Longfin Squid calamari tubes and tentacles, sliced into rings
  • 8 large marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced (4 to 5 slices per person)
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half along the meridian (about 10 halves per person)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste


Make the saffron gnocchi: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the potatoes several times with a fork. Bake the potatoes in the 350-degree oven until they are fully cooked and easily pierced with a fork (about 1 hour).

In a small pan, add the water and saffron and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

In a mixing bowl, combine the water and saffron with the ricotta and egg, mixing it well. Allow this mixture to sit in the refrigerator while the potatoes are baking.

Peel the potatoes while they are hot and rice them into a large mixing bowl using a potato ricer. (It is very important to rice and make the gnocchi while the potatoes are hot. If you don’t, the product will become starchy and gooey.) Fold the riced potatoes into the saffron/ricotta mixture, add both of the flours and continue to mix until a homogenous dough ball forms. Take care not to mix more than is necessary. Season well with salt and pepper.

To shape the gnocchi, remove a baseball-sized ball to a semolina-dusted cutting board and roll the dough into rods about a foot long and about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the gnocchi into 1-inch cylinders with a bench scraper or knife. Once all of the gnocchi are cut from the rod, pick them up with a bench scraper or spatula and place them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat this process until done.

Bring 5 inches of salted water to a simmer in a large, wide pan. Drop the gnocchi 20-25 at a time into the water, ensuring that the temperature doesn’t drop to below a simmer. (Keeping the water at a constant temperature will help prevent the gnocchi from becoming soggy or being destroyed by the turbulence of the water.) Once the gnocchi float, remove them with a skimmer or slotted spoon and place in an ice water bath. Once cool, drain them very well and place on an oiled sheet pan; chill in the refrigerator until time to cook.

Make the tomato broth: in a saucepot, add the oil and garlic and toast until the cloves are golden brown. Add in the paprika, and then deglaze the pan with the tomatoes. Add in the stock and simmer for 20-30 minutes over low heat. Transfer the broth to a blender and blend well. Strain through a chinois and season to taste with salt and pepper. (The seafood in this dish is salty, so underseasoning the broth is recommended.)

Make the meatballs: in a wide pan, sauté the red and yellow peppers in a little canola oil, adding the garlic to the pan just before the peppers have softened. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a storage container and chill well.

Be sure the chicken and fatback are cold before beginning to grind. Grind the chicken and fat together through the small die on a meat grinder (1/4-inch die). Combine all of the ingredients, including chilled peppers, in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed for 1 minute until well emulsified. Keep the mixture cold to avoid breaking the emulsification. Chill in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll the chilled sausage into small meatballs, about 3/4 inch in diameter. Bake on a sheet pan in the 325-degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. (Be careful not to over-bake. Cooking too long will cause the fat to leave the sausage and the resulting chicken meat will be dry.) Remove from oven and set aside to cool until ready to use.

Finish the gnocchi: finely grind the rice using a spice mill, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle until it is the consistency of table salt. Toss 12-15 saffron gnocchi per person in the ground jasmine rice. Remove the gnocchi, shaking off any excess ground rice.

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees for holding the cooked gnocchi. Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat with a little canola oil. Sauté the rice-crusted gnocchi in the hot oil until they are toasted and nutty golden brown on all sides, turning them to ensure even browning. Place them on a paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain and repeat, working in batches, to get all of the gnocchi nice and crispy. Place the pan in the warm oven to hold until time to serve. You do not want to do this too far in advance or the gnocchi will dry out.

Make the accompaniments: in a large pot, bring all of the tomato broth to a very low simmer. Add the mussels, prawns, and chicken sausage meatballs and cover the pot. Warm the seafood just until the mussels open. When they are open, add the calamari, artichokes, tomatoes, and parsley just to warm them through (3-5 minutes). Turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper. (Do not overcook the calamari or it will get rubbery.)

Assemble the dish: spoon the seafood and vegetable accompaniments into each of 8 bowls (about 3/4 inch of broth into each bowl). Top with the saffron gnocchi and serve.

Note: to work ahead, make the chicken sausage meatballs and tomato broth a day ahead. The gnocchi can be made a day in advance up to the point when you crust them with the rice.


8 servings