Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fat and roly-poly

I made gnocchi and I’m inordinately proud of myself. Way more proud of myself than I ought to be, considering how simple it was.


The word “gnocchi” (pronounced nyo-key) reminds me of a fat little dwarf, roly-poly and feisty, but while actual gnocchi are fat and roly-poly, they certainly are not feisty—they are bland and comforting, on a mission from heaven to bring peace and joy to your very soul.


The feisty part kicks in when you dress them up in sauces. I topped mine with tomato and red wine sauce, meatballs, and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It made me swoon. (And let me just say here: I had gnocchi in a restaurant a few months back and I was not impressed. This gnocchi, on the other hand, impressed me into raptures, though if you are not accustomed to eating dumblings, it may take a few bites till you begin to cotton to them. It’s a different texture—soft and chewy—but one that I find profoundly satisfying.)

Today I had the last few gnocchi for my mid-morning snack. I tossed them with a pat of melted butter, some shavings of Fontina, and a grind of black pepper. And then I started in on another batch via Miss Beccaboo—I gave her a lesson in weighing, cleaning, stabbing, and baking potatoes, all the while calling the instructions to her from my spot on the sofa in front of the fire. I refuse to be without my new favorite food for any amount of time. I have fallen hard. Be still my beating heart and my salivating tastebuds, gnocchi will soon be yours once more.


Cooked gnocchi can be kept covered in the fridge for several days—just needing to be briefly heated in the sauce of your choosing—and I’ve been obsessively imagining what kinds of sauces I might use. Mushrooms make up the bulk of my gnocchi visions (buttered mushrooms simmered in white wine with a shaving of Parmesan for the grand finale, perhaps?), but there is also Alfredo sauce and pesto and just plain browned butter and salt. I can’t stop thinking about them.

They couldn’t be much simpler to make.


Mash up the insides of some baked potato.


Stir in some flour, an egg yolk, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt.


Knead the dough lightly.


Roll the dough out into ropes and cut the ropes into pieces.


Boil the pieces for a few minutes in salted water.


Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drizzle them with olive oil.

It’s a piece of cake, or rather, a puff of potato.

P.S. I’ve taken to calling The Baby Nickel “my little Gnocchi” and biting his fat rosy cheeks. (I bite his cheeks all the time anyway, so it’s only the gnocchi part that’s new.) If I had known about gnocchi back when I started reproducing, I can guarantee that all my children would have gone by that nickname, the fat little white balls of dough they were. (“Were.” My babies were. Oh, pangs of sadness, be gone!)


Do you see the resemblance?

Potato Gnocchi
Adapted from the February 2010 issue of Bon Appetit

Note: do not throw out the hollowed-out potato skins! Drizzle them with melted butter, add some S & P, dump on an avalanche of grated cheese (and crumbled bacon and black olives and anything else you want), and then bake them at 350 degrees till the cheese bubbles and browns. Serve them as an appetizer or snack, or as a part of the main meal, and your family will kiss your feet, or at the very least, clean their plates.

1 ½ pounds (about five or six medium) russet potatoes, washed and pricked with a fork
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter

Bake the potatoes till fork-tender. Let them sit at room temperature until they have cooled halfway (take your best guess—there is no scientific process involved). Cut the potatoes in half and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Reserve the potato skins for a special treat (see note above).

Vigorously mash the potato with a hand-held ricer. Most of the lumps will be gone, but there will be a few tiny ones still left. Do not worry about those. Add the flour and toss to combine. Add the egg yolk, salt, and nutmeg, and, using a fork, stir to combine.

Turn the crumbly dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently knead it till it comes together in a nice ball, using more flour as necessary (I didn’t need to use much extra). Divide the dough into four equal parts and roll each part into a rope about three-quarter inches in diameter. Using a knife, cut the dough into three-fourth inch pieces and set them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Fill a kettle a third full with water, add salt, and bring it to a boil. Carefully drop the gnocchi in the water (you’ll have to cook them in batches—how many batches will depend on the size of your kettle). When the gnocchi float to the surface, set the timer for three minutes. Give them a gentle stir every minute.

Test to see if the gnocchi are done by breaking one open—it should be even-colored the whole way through—no dark spots of heaviness. If they are not done, return them to the water for another minute. (The recipe said they would take four minutes to cook once they bobbed to the top, but I found that mine took only three minutes.)

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi from the boiling water to a plate. Repeat the process till all the gnocchi have been boiled. Drizzle them with olive oil, or melted butter, and toss to coat. At this point they can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple days, or you can toss them with the sauce of your choice and serve immediately.

Yield: four servings

About one year ago: Physics Lesson. We still have not fixed the bumper and probably never will.

16 comments:

  1. NPR in the background here has just faded away while I laugh at the baby-gnocchi side-by-side.

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  2. Okay, now you ARE going to get fat. I will be watching.

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  3. You should try rolling the pieces off a fork with your thumb to get a shell-like shape to the pasta.

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  4. Hmmmm. I may have to try gnocchi again. I tried them once long ago and wasn't impressed. It may have been my recipe and it may have been me not being able to get over the texture. You are making me reconsider my initial impressions....

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  5. Dr. P, Huh? It's just POTATOES boiled in WATER. It's healthy!

    Jess, Good idea.

    ThyHand, The texture IS different, but I found it comforting. Mr. H said it grew on him. It had excellent mouth-feel when a bit of meat was eaten along with the gnocchi, but I like them plain, fresh out of the water, too.

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  6. I LOVE Gnocchi so I must share my favorite recipie for it with you...Gnocchi with Spinach and Gogonzola... 2 (10oz)boxes frozen spinach, 28 oz gnocchi, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped, 1 cup chicken stock, 8oz crumbled gorgogonzola.
    1. defrost spinach in microwave on high 5 mins, wring dry with towel. 2.Boil water for gnocchi. 3.Place walnuts in small skillet over med-low heat 3-4 minutes. 4.In deep skillet heat olive oil add garlic and spinach, salt and pepper. Add stock bring to bubble. Add gorgonzolaand stir. Drain gnocchi add to spinach gorgonzola mixture. Top with walnuts. So YUMMY!!! -Robyn

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  7. Okay, I am not going to correct your spelling, so don't bite my head off, but I do wish to clarify that in Italy, gnocchi sounds like nyo-key. (I sang a lot of Latin in college, and recalled that Agnus is ahn-yoos...)

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  8. Robyn, That sounds positively blissful.

    Kris, Thanks for catching that. I was going by pronunciations I found on the web and couldn't find the right symbols on my computer. I'll make the change accordingly.

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  9. Gnocchi is also quite yummy using Ricotta instead of potatoes. I found it on another blog, Italian Food Forever. Check it out

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  10. About a year ago I tried making whole wheat gnocchi. Maybe not the best idea. They tended to fall apart in the boiling process. Sigh. I guess I'll have to put these on the all white flour list or maybe grind my flour a lot finer.

    Aunt V.

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  11. You're driving me nuts with all these luscious sounding recipes that I want to try but can't find the time. Where in the world do YOU find the time to not only make them but then to put forth such an enjoyable, funny, well-written blog post about them? You are a Wonder Woman in my book. (Come on, fess up. You have live-in help, don't you?)

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  12. Mama Pea, Yes, I do have live-in help. It's a HANDSOME situation.

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  13. I fell in love with gnocchi last year and have a sinfully tasty soup that sadly will pack on the pounds. I tell myself that since it contains spinach and chicken that it's healthy.

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  14. Betsy, I MUST have that recipe ASAP. (Please?)

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  15. Here it is...on one condition. You have to tell me what you think of it. Some people think it is too rich, but pair it with a nice salad and you're good to go.

    First,

    Shred ½ to one carrot
    Mince 2 cloves of garlic (we usually do 4-5)
    ½ c spinach chopped (I usually buy fresh baby spinach and chifanade it)
    lb of gnocchi
    3 lb of chicken, cubed

    On medium heat, pour olive oil (varies but about 1/3c) into a soup pot. You can use butter, either works. I usually do half and half. Once heated, add chicken seasoned with pepper and salt. Cook chicken until done. Add 1/3 c of flour (about equal amount of flour to oil/butter). Stir in flour until it is cooked into the chicken. Add garlic and carrots and sauté. Add chicken broth until it’s covered and add 1 pint of heavy cream. Simmer and taste. Sometimes I add chicken boullion cubes (only 2 any more and it’s too salty). Finally add the spinach and gnocchi. Cook until gnocchi is done. Soup should be thick, spinach still a nice green and gnocchi the perfect chewiness. Sorry about my directions. Can you tell I don’t do real recipes well? Hope you like it.

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  16. Betsy, Wow, wow, WOW. That looks amazing. I will certainly not be forgetting this one. Thank you!

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