Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gnocchi with Spinach Basil Pesto, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, and Asparagus

I think my cell phone on the side really completes the dish

The first time I had gnocchi was in Rome last summer.  It was the lightest and most heavenly thing I had ever eaten.  Every bite tasted like a cloud, I was hooked and immediately jumped to the Internet to find out how to make it.  Everything I read made gnocchi seem like the hardest thing in the world to make.  Sadly, it was put on my cooking back burner... until now.

Last Wednesday Jake came over for dinner and I knew I wanted to make something new, good and impressive.  Gnocchi was the first thing that came to mind.  I feverishly started researching how to make it; different techniques, recommend sauces and how many attempts it took people to get it right.  Apparently you need a ricer, an Italian grandmother and years of experience to get it right.  And even then you might not get it right on the first try.  I can honestly say I was afraid that I would mess it up and serve Jake dense potato balls.

But once again Deb at Smitten Kitchen saved the day.  Apparently you don't NEED a ricer, you can easily use a the large grater side of your box grater, you just have to make sure the potatoes gratings don't clump together.  And even though I'm Irish and have an infinite love for potatoes, you don't need an Italian grandmother to get it right (meaning my grandmothers do just fine!).  Yes, that's right, I SUCCESSFULLY made gnocchi on my first try!  I was (and partially still am) on a culinary high.  And I'm pretty sure Jake liked it too (but you'll have to ask him to make sure).  I also gave some to my roommate, Zenka, and she didn't seem to complain one bit... In fact, I think she gobbled it down.

If you have any questions about making them, I did enough research and bookmarked enough sites that I  can share tips or answer questions.  But I really recommend you try to make this because it is incredibly rewarding when you do!

PS - I adapted this recipe from SO many sites, but I used Smitten Kitchen's technique tips the most.

  • 4 good sized Russet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. After cleaning the potatoes, cut a ⅛ inch deep all around the potato (it will make peeling them a lot easier later).  
  2. Place in boiling water for about 30 minutes, or until a paring knife can easily be inserted into the fattest past of the potato.
  3. When potatoes are done, remove and peel right away, the skins should slip right off with minimal assistance of a knife (and unless you have super hands, you'll want to use a kitchen towel or hot mitt to hold to potatoes).
  4. Then grate the potatoes on the largest holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg and the salt to the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the flour to the potatoes a little at a time, using only as much as you need so that the dough will not stick to your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, bring the dough together with your fingertips.  At this point my dough was still kind of sticky - you really want to avoid using too much flour (it will end up being very dense), err on the side of caution.
  6. Dump the dough and any remaining floury bits onto a slightly floured surface. Knead the dough as you would bread dough. Press down and away with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over, make a quarter turn, and repeat the process. Knead for about three or four minutes.
  7. Form the dough into a ball and then divide it into 6 smaller balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the six pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces.
  8. Sadly, I am not yet talented enough to add the traditional gnocchi ridges with a fork, but if you can: create the ridges, press each piece of dough against the tines of a fork. With your finger, gently roll the pressed dough back off the fork. Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly floured or parchment-lined dish. If you’d like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray and once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag. This ensures that you won’t have one enormous gnocchi mass when you are ready to cook them.
  9. To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling and well-salted water. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove,  and set aside.  If you are using a sauce, add to a saute pan with the (heated) sauce and cook for another minute or two.
Spinach-Basil Pesto

  1. In a food processor combine a hand-full of basil leaves, about a cup of fresh spinach, ¼ cup of pine nuts, ½ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, ¼ cup grated asiago cheese, 3 cloves of minced garlic, some freshly ground black pepper, and a few pinches of kosher salt.  All of these ingredients can be more or less to taste.
  2. After this has been pureed, continue running the food processor and drizzle in olive oil until the pesto has reached your desired consistency.
  3. This can then be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for a few days, but for the gnocchi you will want to heat it in a sauté pan, adding the gnocchi for the last one or two minutes.
Slow (Oven) Roasted Tomatoes

  1. Preheat over to 250 degrees.
  2. Cut Roma tomatoes in half and place in a small casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and top with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Cook in oven for about two hours or until nice and soft.

1 comment:

Abbie said...

I just made Deb's gnocchi tonight! I too did a lot of internet research from Mario Batalli to Gabriel Viti, but pretty much followed Deb's take. I served it with her Vodka Cream Sauce adapted from Rachel Ray. It was yummy and much easier than I thought it would be!


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