Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gnocchi, Gah-nocky

"What's gah-nocky?" Yes, that's what I said out loud at a restaurant in Manhattan while my three friends of Italian descent snickered at and teased me. It's OK. They're my girls and I can't tell you how many times I've snickered at and teased them. That's what we do and when we go overboard, we fight. I don't normally fight with friends, but there's something about living with a group of girls for four years in college that brings out the sister in you even if you never had any and I never had any. I'm the girl in a family of boys.

The gah-nocky incident occurred twelve years ago when I was just a semi-worldy mafia obsessed college freshman. And when I say mafia obsessed, I mean I dragged my high school best friend to Sicily in search of the real godfather. Yeah, I had some kind of influence then, right? Wish I could be so inspiring nowadays. Sure, now I realize the mafia isn't cool, but I'll watch The Godfather any day...

You might recall this past Friday I picked up thyme and sage at the farmer's market and I sent out an SOS to you all looking for ideas on what to do with it. Of course, one of my college ladies came through and suggested I try this amazing Mark Bittman recipe of brown butter, sage and bread crumbs to go over pasta. Little did she know I had also picked up a package of homemade ricotta gnocchi so I decided to try it out. Yummy! Seriously wonderful. Baby girl was asleep when the husband and I devoured the entire thing, brown butter, crispy sage, bread crumbs and all. Thanks, S!

After dinner, my husband and I were chatting about how this little package of gnocchi was so tasty (and pricey), but I couldn't very well write about someone else's gnocchi. I needed to make it myself. So, the next day I invested in a food mill (I'm planning on making jam this summer too!), thumbed through Mario Batali's Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home and got the general idea for making gnocchi. Then, like I do most weekend afternoons, I sent baby girl and my husband off to the playground while I got down to bidness. Everything was going smoothly until I decided to not peel the potatoes. I thought the ricer would take care of it. Nope. It took forever and majorly aggravated my carpal tunnel. Worst of all, the potatoes turned into a gummy mess from my continuous spinning of the mill and attempts to force the potato through the skin-bit riddled holes. By the time my husband and baby girl got home, I was hot, sweaty and angry.

So, I had to start over and I must pat myself on the back. They turned out lovely. I made a few additions to Mr. Bittman's brown butter sauce including tomatoes and pea shoots, which I settled on since sweet peas aren't in season yet. And, even though the bread crumbs were amazing, I nixed them because my husband and I wanted to get a true feeling for the gnocchi's texture: they were smooth, light and just a little chewy. What's more, I made a huge batch and was able to freeze most of the dough for hectic nights.

Whole Wheat & Potato Gnocchi Studded with Chives and Sauced With Browned Butter, Sage, Tomatoes & Pea Shoots
(Are my titles too long? Perhaps, but I feel I need to include every last bit to give you the idea. This recipe was inspired by a combination of Mario Batali's basic gnocchi recipe and my momnesiac memory so it's a true team effort.)

Steam three pounds of russet potatoes until a knife or fork goes in and comes out easily. Then, peel the potatoes and run them through a ricer, food mill or something that has spaghetti sized holes. Dump the riced potatoes in a large bowl and add about 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 2 eggs, a teaspoon of salt and lots of fresh chopped chive. I also added their purple flowers and the effect was lovely green and purple studded gnocchi. Mix together with a wooden spoon, spatula or your hands until thoroughly combined. Then turn out the dough onto a floured surface.

The dough is a bit sticky so keep a little bowl of flour on hand. Roll out pieces of the dough into thin snakes - about .5 to .75 inches thick. Then take a knife and cut inch long pieces off the snake. Take a fork and roll the gnocchi on it to make little indentations. My husband wondered why this is necessary and I told him it's to hold onto the yummy sauce. 'Nough said.

Once the gnocchi is fork-tined, it's ready to cook. Now, unless you're cooking for twenty people, you'll have loads of gnocchi ready to freeze. Reserve the amount you need for dinner and then place the rest in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze them for about 20 minutes. Once they're frozen through put the gnocchi in a plastic freezer bag and then into the freezer for another time.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in the gnocchi, wait for the water to come back to a strong boil and cook it for one minute. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat and throw in a big old pat of butter. Watch it carefully. Immediately, when the butter turns a dark, nutty brown (not black!), toss in a couple handfuls of chopped cherry tomatoes, lots of sage and sage flowers if you have them. With a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the pan and saute them in the tomato and sage mixture. Add in some fresh pea shoots and toss just a little. Add a pinch of salt and serve. Ain't it pretty?

Approximate Dinner Cost
• W/Wine - $24.00
• W/o Wine - $12.00
• Leftovers – OMG, there are at least 10 more servings in the freezer, which comes to $.92 per meal. Talk about recession gourmet!

Bookmark and Share


  1. This looks delicious! I tried to make butternut squash gnocchi once, and it was a disaster. I'm interested to learn if you've ever made non-potato gnocchi. what other types of foods would work well? though, would the dish even be considered "gah nocky" if it's not made from taters (would it just be dumplings--what's the difference)? i made regular potato gnocchi once for my aunt who has Celiac disease--it was good, and she was touched. All in all, gnocchi is a very memorable food for me!

  2. Is that a special board you are cutting the gnocchi on? what's it for?

  3. Thanks! Gnocchi are basically Italy's version of a dumpling and I've seen recipes for butternut squash and ricotta gnocchi that don't have any potato at all. However, I've seen flour in almost every recipe. So, for your aunt who suffers from celiac, there are tons of substitutes you could use. Almond flour and chick pea flour come to mind as tasty alternatives.

    As for the special board, it's called a Roll-Pat. It's the silpat's (nonstick cookie pad) cousin and it's a nonstick surface for rolling out dough. I still need to flour it to keep things from sticking, but it sure makes cleanup easier than working directly on my countertop.

  4. Are some cuisines more conducive to the "slow" food concept? Have you ever thought of making slow food fast food? I'd love to see your take on Chinese food.

  5. I am flirting with the idea of buying a ricer - is it worth it?

  6. Ooh, I would love to explore Chinese food some time. My husband and I used to make the best dumplings. I don't know why we stopped. I'll rediscover that recipe soon!

    As for a ricer, there were several options available when I went shopping this weekend and I decided on the general food mill rather than an actual ricer (which basically looked like a giant garlic press). Investing in a food mill is definitely worth it if you want to make jams, gnocchi, mashed potatoes, applesauce and a host of other purees and sauces that need to be loosely strained.

  7. came over from you post on making tofu -- which I did know how to do -- to this, about which I had no idea. always learning something from your ideas, Peggy, thanks

  8. love this post and yes i remember your mafia obsession. i never thought to make gah-nocky and now that you've done it you've definitely inspired me to try. need a mill first.oh and i love the long titles! ;)



Blog Widget by LinkWithin