Recipe: Creamy tarragon prawns and asparagus with spinach gnocchi

Melanie Johnson's recipe takes the 'subtle yet perceivable' taste of tarragon and uses it to elevate this hearty seafood pasta.

Tarragon is one of those spring herbs that impresses with its taste and versatility. For example, in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, it’s used to flavour a popular fizzy drink known as Tarkhun. I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure it’s wonderful. In Slovenia, it’s used to make a traditional nut roll sweet cake while, closer to home, in France, it is one of the four fines herbes of fine cooking and is one of the main ingredients of Béarnaise sauce.

It’s long been known that it makes a roast chicken all the better, and Melanie Johnson suggests tucking tarragon leaves under the skin while cooking, as well as combining the herb with a rice, spring onion, lemon and olive oil for the stuffing.

However, her recipe for creamy prawns with asparagus, tarragon and spinach gnocchi caught our eye. It’s below.

Recipe: Creamy tarragon prawns and asparagus with spinach gnocchi

Ingredients: serves 4

For the spinach gnocchi (ignore if using shop-bought)

  • 3 large baking potatoes
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 240g plain flour
  • 50g spinach, chopped

For the rest

  • 50ml olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 100g mascarpone
  • 200g asparagus spears, cut into bite-size pieces
  • A small bunch fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 300g large cooked prawns
  • 1 lemon, zest of, and squeeze
  • Parmesan to grate over


Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4.

Rub oil over the potatoes and bake for an hour or until cooked through. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mix in the egg yolks and then sprinkle over the flour—you may find you need slightly more or less—add the chopped spinach and mix to form a dough. Roll it out into long sausages and cut into bite-size pieces. You can use them immediately or chill, covered, until you need them.

When ready to cook, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and add the gnocchi. As soon as they reach the surface, remove with a slotted spoon and add to a large frying pan heated with a splash of olive oil and fry until golden.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the grated garlic and tarragon. Fry for a couple of minutes and then pour in the white wine. Simmer to reduce by half and then add the stock and mascarpone. Heat at a gentle simmer to melt the mascarpone and thicken the sauce, then add the asparagus pieces and prawns. They will only need a few minutes to cook and heat through.

Add the gnocchi to the pan and mix them through. Zest and squeeze over the lemon, add Parmesan shavings and serve with a green salad on the side.