This (vegetarian) thing you should try: Red Hen’s Roman-style gnocchi

Usually, I know better than to order gnocchi. The pasta that so many restaurants offer as kind of consolation prize for vegetarians, it's often undercooked, overcooked or simply waterlogged by cream sauce.


The gnocchi with hazelnut pesto at The Red Hen is made with neither potato flour nor ricotta. (Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg/For the Washington Post)

Then there is the gnocchi at Bloomingdale's Red Hen. I was sure the wrong dish had been delivered to my table when I ordered the pasta last year and a stack of soft cubes arrived, draped in pesto and tossed with toasted nuts.  It was heavenly, and so I devoured it, wondering all the while where my real dinner had gone off to. Post critic Tom Sietsema agreed, writing the "vivid pesto with crushed hazelnuts is one of those sauces that’s so luscious, you wish the dish came with directions for making at home (or even better, were sold by the jar)."

The truth? Chef Mike Friedman prepares the pasta in the rustic Roman style, using fluffy semolina and baking it in a pan and slicing it before serving. The semolina is infinitely lighter than potato flour and less rich than ricotta. It's pasta you can eat to the bottom of the bowl.

Legions were disappointed when Friedman took the gnocchi off the menu when giving his dishes a fall revamp. But beginning today, the vegetarian offering has been restored, with one new twist: It now comes with a ragu of wild mushrooms. It costs $17.

Check out the rest of the new menu, announced today, here. And note the new hours, too: Red Hen will now be open on Monday nights, beginning today.

The Red Hen, 1822 First St. NW. 202-525-3021. 

Lavanya Ramanathan is a professional eater/drinker/thinker for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. University of Texas. Northwestern University. Rap fan.
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Lavanya Ramanathan | March 10