Try this ‘Tex-Italian’ Gran Arso Carbonara with Lemon Ricotta and Pepita Pesto
By Rachael Lindley
Photography by Olaf Growald
On any given Saturday, you can find Ryan Fussell, owner and founder of Gnocchi Dokie, at The Clearfork Farmers Market, selling his brand of handmade emotional support carbs. He offers fresh pasta, ricotta, pesto and sausages and has created quite the following over the past six months.
“I create my own menu every week based on what is fresh and available to me,” Fussell says. “I source as much as I possibly can from local farmers. I’m okay with paying more for organic ingredients, no chemicals, no preservatives, no binders and no additives. I’m proud to say we do that.”
Fussell has branded his cuisine as “Tex-Italian” because he combines native Texas flavors with Italian classics. One of his best sellers is the Smokey Gnocchi, potato pasta smoked with pecan wood.
Originally from Georgia, Fussell moved to Texas 14 years ago. “I’m so grateful to be doing this in Texas because people here are clamoring for new and interesting flavor combinations,” he said.
Growing up, Fussell spent summers and holidays visiting family in Abruzzo, Italy. It was there that his Nonna — grandmother — showed him the ropes of cooking and pasta making. Abruzzo is a region east of Rome known for lush farmland and being the birthplace of the chitarra, a tool for cutting spaghetti.
Ironically, the Wrens Abruzzi rye that Fussell would later use originated in Abruzzo and made its way to Georgia and Texas. “It was as if my ancestors were pointing me in the right direction all along,” he said. “I had to give it a shot.”
Fussell attended Western Carolina University, where he ran track and studied chemistry. As a way to eat healthier, he began cooking in his dorm for himself and the other athletes on his floor. This cemented his passion for cooking for others. From that point forward, Fussell worked in food and wine.
In the summer of 2022, Fussell founded Gnocchi Dokie. “I wanted to create something with intentionality and purpose. That’s important to me. My chemistry background helps me put foods and flavors together.”
Fussell gets grains from Barton Springs Mill in Dripping Springs. It receives wheat from farmers in Texas and Oklahoma that don’t bleach or use bromate. Grains are stone-milled, making a feathery flour, and produce pasta that absorbs sauces beautifully. The eggs he uses are from Shamgar Ranch and are cage-free and free range. He sources his protein from Bluebonnet Meat Co., Texas’ second oldest continually operating processor.
For those with dietary restrictions, Fussell likes to have at least a couple of vegan selections — including his mole-inspired pumpkin seed pesto, cavatelli and burnt wheat grano arso pasta he says has 70% less gluten than typical pasta.
Ever the innovator, Fussell is constantly on the lookout for recipes and products that differentiate his business. Most recently, he created “Purple Reign” pasta, an homage to TCU.
The purple, black and white pasta is made from ebony carrots, burnt wheat and a chardonnay/semolina dough that’s hand-rolled into garganelli. Fussell said he’s seeking collegiate licensing to make corzetti stamps for several popular universities.
Fussell uses naturally derived food dyes like blue butterfly pea flower, saffron and red beets.
Craving something sweet? Fussell created a ricotta red velvet gnocchi to appeal to sweet tooth customers. He likes to pair this with a mint whipped crème and orange zest and crushed candied pecan topping.
Fussell plans to continue selling his goods at The Clearfork Farmers Market, catering, participating in pop-ups and teaching pasta-making classes. His long-term plan: get into retail stores and open an Italian grocery store in Fort Worth.
Gran Arso Carbonara with Lemon Ricotta and Pepita Pesto
Load up on the ingredients for this simple and delicious dish at The Clearfork Farmers Market. This take on a classic carbonara is flavorful, fresh and filling. Ryan Fussell makes the pasta with Gnocchi Dokie’s Grano Arso, a burnt wheat from Central Italy with a rich, nutty flavor.
¼ cup pasta cooking water
½ lb. bacon
1 bag Gnocchi Dokie Grano Arso Fettucini
3 ½ tbsp Gnocchi Dokie fresh lemon ricotta cheese (1 ½ tbsp for cooking, 1 tbsp for each plating)
1 ½ tbsp Gnocchi Dokie Pepita Pesto
Arugula microgreens (Fussell says Skye Farms has outstanding quality.)
½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil (Fratelli Colletti has excellent oils at the market each week.)
Cracked black pepper to finish
Bring a liberally salted pot of water to a rolling boil, then reduce to simmer and cover.
In a non-stick pan over medium heat, add bacon and allow the fat to render and melt. Pour this fat into a mug to reserve for later.
Bring heat to medium-high and crisp the bacon to your desired doneness. Set the bacon on a paper towel to cool.
Add the Grano Arso Fettucini to the water pot, turn off the heat and re-cover. The pasta will be fully cooked in 6-8 minutes.
Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water. Strain the pasta and set aside.
Return the bacon fat to the pan and bring to medium-high heat. When the fat shimmers, add the pasta and stir to coat.
Add the ricotta and pesto and stir briefly to spread them evenly. Add the pasta water and cook until the water, pesto and cheese form an even sauce.
Split the finished pasta between two plates. Top each with 1 tbsp of fresh ricotta and a healthy pinch of arugula microgreens. Drizzle each with olive oil and a dusting of freshly cracked black pepper.