January 09, 2011

The Good of Gnocchi

I love pasta, and of course, also love these little balls of springy, fluffy potatoes. The gnocchi at Maggiano's with simple tomato sauce is one of those consistent dishes that is perfect every time you have it, and every few months, you recall those mooments of popping one of the sauce covered potato fluffs into you mouth and you want some immediately. I don't crave pasta from a restaurant very often but this dish I do. 

The very first time I found gnocchi at the store, I got a little giddy, bought additional ingredients to make a good sauce, and of course, forgot what I needed from the store and left without completing my list because all I could think about was GNOCCHI.  Bleh, what a disappointment!  Nothing is better than the restaurant but it wasn't even close. Maybe it was the high expectation set of finding this in the store and thinking this must be good. 

During my holiday stay at my sister's house, we didn't have anything planned for dinner, and I was looking through one of the many food blogs I read.  We saw a post on homemade gnocchi and it looked so easy and even better - only four ingredients, all of which we had leftover from Christmas dinner.  First mistake - don't think just because there are few ingredients, that this isn't labor intensive or time consuming, because it is. In my case, about 45 minutes longer than I thought!

They were good but not as good as I had hoped. The gnocchi itself lacked a little flavor, and next time, I will bump it up with some additional seasoning and maybe fresh herbs rolled into the dough. Also, I overcooked the gnocchi. There's no time limit on how long they cook before they are done. Many blogs will say, the gnocchi tells you when they are ready - they float to the top.  I put the first few in, turned around to get more and when I was about to put more into the water, the first ones I put in were already floating!  Seriously, can it really be ready in less than a minute?  I didn't think so and left them to cook much longer, and ultimately, took out that chewy, springiness that is the good of gnocchi.  That said, I think I will be venturing on a gnocchi adventure and try out several versions over the next few months. 

Homemade Gnocchi
Serves 8-10 (I froze half and cooked half to serve 5)
Recipe adapted from Bitchcamero

For the gnocchi:
4 potatoes, boiled with skin on for about 45 minutes
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
2.5-3 cups cake flour

For the sauce:
1 jar of marinara sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp of sugar
1-2 tsp of garlic powder
1-2 tsp of dried oregano
Grated parmesan cheese

1. After you take out the potatoes, you can easily peel off the skin with a fork. Then, you can use your fork and fluff them into pieces.  Don't mash is what bitchencamero suggests since you want that extra "fluff." 
2. Whisk eggs with the salt. Once done, sprinkle flour on the counter and on your hands.  Make a little tire of the potatoes and poru the whisked eggs and pour into the middle concave spot. Slowly mix the potatoes together. Then add in 1/2 cup of flour and keep mixing with your hands. I keep adding 1/2 cups of flour until it forms a good ball.

3. Then, cut into pieces and start rolling into a small log - diameter about 1/2 inch.  Then using your fork, just cut into pieces and with the prongs of your fork, make that typical gnocchi indention. It's okay if your first few, well, 20, gnocchi looks like mushed pasta. It takes a little trial and error to get it right. I placed these on an cookie sheet.
4. Heat a bit pot of water to boil.  Add salt.  Then, in another large sauce pan, add the olive oil and garlic until the aroma starts to really kick in.  Pour in the marinara sauce (you can also substitute with a large can of whole tomatoes and a 1/2 can of tomato paste. You will just need to season a tad more.) and let it cook for another few minutes. Put heat to medium and then start adding the seasoning - S&P, oregano, garlic powder and sugar. Keep tasting and adding necessary seasoning to your liking. I went heavy on the oregano, dash of garlic powder and if the sauce was a little flat or too tart, I added in another tsp of sugar. Sugar is that key ingredient in tomato sauce!

5. Once the water is boiling, put in the gnocchi to cook.  Realize that once they float to the top, they are done.  Don't overcook like I did.  If I did this right, these things should have been taken out in less than 5 minutes.
6. When gnocchi is done, strain out the gnocchi and put directly into the pasta sauce.  Mix it well and for serving later, add grated parmesan cheese on top.  Parsley would have also been a nice touch.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE gnocchi! And Maggiano's is definitely my favorite. I totally know what you mean about spontaneous instant memory flash - it is that good!