Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I have wanted to make gnocchi since February of 2007. Specific, aren't I? In the February/March 2007 issue of Light & Tasty, I read a three-page article titled, "no-fail gnocchi", complete with 4 mouth-watering gnocchi recipes. February 2007 was the same month that I turned 30 and that we moved from Indiana to Georgia. Before I got around to trying my hand at gnocchi, I needed to pack up our house and move hundreds of miles South. The magazine got packed too. Since that February, 2 years and 5 months ago, we've had another baby, moved again, Light and Tasty changed it's name to Healthy Cooking and I started this blog. Time flies, right? What I still have not done is make gnocchi. Until now... I found this recipe for basil gnocchi in the latest issue of Food Network Magazine. Chef Ashley Archer recommended using instant potatoes to reduce the prep time for these little green potato-based pastas. I'm all for a shortcut when it comes to the time consuming task of making my own pasta. The sauce is simple and traditional and I love that it uses fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. This dish was so good that I know I'll make it again. So, 2 years and 5 months later, I have made my own gnocchi. It was worth the wait.
Here is what you need for the pasta: instant potatoes or real potatoes squeezed through a ricer, flour, egg, basil, grated pecorino cheese or in my case, Parmigiano-reggiano because that's what I had in the fridge, and some kosher salt.
Begin by putting a packed cup of basil leaves into your food processor or blender with 1/4 cup of cold water.
Now combine the potatoes, egg, cheese, salt, and basil puree.
Place 3/4 cup of flour in a mound on a clean surface.
If you have not yet donned your apron, now is a good time. Kneading and forming pasta is a messy business. I obliterated my running shorts. Nice.
Combine the potato mixture with the flour.
Knead until smooth. Maybe 5 minutes. Add the rest of the flour gradually and knead until it is all incorporated. I used way more flour than recommended. Part of my problem is that I used 1 cup of leftover mashed potatoes complete with butter and milk mixed in. They had a higher moisture content than plain riced potatoes or the potato flakes mixed with the recommended amount of water. Form the dough into a ball.
Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll into 1 inch diameter ropes. Cut the ropes into 1/2 inch pieces. You can cook them just like this. There is no law against it, I promise. I decided to go more traditional and add the grooves so that the yummy sauce could cling in each little indentation. I used a fork. Just roll the pieces of pasta over an upside-down fork. You can check out the gnocchi forming technique here in this informative little clip. Did you know that there is such a thing as a gnocchi board? I want one of these:V581 Gnocchi Board. It would make the process much easier! You can also find the link to a gnocchi board on Amazon.com in my left sidebar.
Place the formed gnocchi on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until you are ready to use them. You can also freeze them for up to a month. Making your own gnocchi does take a considerable amount of time. You could make these ahead and just pull them out when you're ready to make the recipe after work or on a busy night. OR...you can always buy gnocchi at the grocery and make this dish really quickly! I'm glad that I made my own and the basil gnocchi was amazing, but back when I was working or at home with a new baby, there is no way I would've pulled off taking an hour out of my day to make my own! So, if you buy the gnocchi rather than make your own, I won't think any less of your, I swear!
When the sauce is near ready, drop the gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they float to the top, plus 1 minute more. Drain.
Aren't these little gnocchi cute? I thought they looked kind of like chubby lil' green caterpillars. Okay, so I have an active imagination...
Now for the sauce! Here's what you'll need: olive oil, pine nuts, 2 lbs. of tomatoes, 3 shallots (I only had two), three cloves of garlic (I used 5), dry white wine (I used chicken broth...completely out of wine here),and kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (not pictured...oops!)
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and fry the pine nuts until toasted, swirling the pan.
With a slotted spoon, remove the pine nuts to drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt. Forget the gnocchi, these are delicious on their own!
Now sautee the garlic and shallots in the oil until tender. Then add the wine or broth and bring to a boil.
Add the tomatoes and cook and stir until the tomatoes are soft. Salt and pepper (if you're like me) generously.
Toss the gnocchi with the sauce and serve topped with the toasted pine nuts, additional basil and grated cheese. In our house we also had garlic bread. Actually, Texas Toast from the freezer. All that time making fresh pasta and I paired it with Texas Toast from a cardboard box? Oh well, the potatoes came from a box too. It was awesome! We all loved it.
Sidenote: I am watching Top Chef Masters while typing this. Whoa! I am SO slow at making gnocchi! I just watched Suzanne chop the gnocchi pieces in what looked like fast forward! Impressive.
Here is the recipe:
Ashley's Basil Gnocchi
Recipe courtesy Ashley Archer for Food Network Magazine
Prep Time: 25 min Inactive Cook Time: 20 min Level: Intermediate
Serves: 4 servings
For the Gnocchi:
1 1/2 cups instant mashed potatoes
1 cup packed fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
For the Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into pieces
Freshly ground pepper
Make the gnocchi: Mix the instant potatoes with 1 cup hot water in a bowl using a fork; set aside until the potatoes absorb the liquid, 3 minutes. Meanwhile, puree the basil and 1/4 cup cold water in a blender until smooth. Stir the basil puree, egg, pecorino and 1 tablespoon salt into the potato mixture.
Mound 3/4 cup flour on a surface; add the potato mixture and knead together until smooth, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Divide the dough into 3 portions; roll each into a 1-inch-diameter log (dust with flour, if needed). Cut each log into 1/2-inch pieces; place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while making the sauce (or freeze up to 1 month).
Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts; fry until toasted, swirling the pan. Transfer the nuts with a slotted spoon to paper towels and season with salt. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss; cook until the tomatoes are just soft, 2 more minutes.
Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender, about 1 minute after they float to the surface. Drain and toss with the sauce. Top with the toasted pine nuts and more basil and pecorino.