So I have started to take a greater interest in food. Rather, in making sure the food we consume is “good” for us. Relatively speaking anyway.
Basically that means looking at a lot of food labels, trying to figure out what they mean, and researching the best nutritious value for my buck – and, ultimately, it means forgoing a lot of eating out for eating at home. Because when you make food at home, as my mother loves telling me, you know what’s in it.
There are, of course, degrees to this. Making boxed KD at home is maybe marginally better than buying Mac’n’Cheese at a fast food place (portions, people) but is way unhealthy in general – I mean, I don’t want to seem unCanadian or anything but is that orange powder that comes in the little sealed packages even cheese? Really?
Pasta will never be wonderful for you – the carbs, the calories, etc. But it can be better for you. One way to know is to just make it yourself. It’s not very hard, and actually pretty easy, and it involves super simple ingredients and the recipe (I say “recipe” but it’s really very simple) is super versatile, which means you can customize it for your own use. There are so many great tutorials online for pasta, and I have watched a fair number of them and made my own for a while now. But a couple of weeks ago, while the Boy was actually grocery shopping with me (instead of leaving me to grocery shop while he wandered through the beer aisle) he snagged a box of gnocchi and tossed it into the cart. I frowned at him and asked if he liked gnocchi, which only resulted in him telling me all about how much potato pasta rocked his world. Preferably with copious amount of tomato sauce.
I turned over the package, read the nutritional information and frowned at him, putting it back on the shelf and promising that when we got home we’d make out own gnocchi with potatos, flour, egg and salt. I had done it once before (a long, long time ago … with marscapone cheese thrown in for fun) and remembered enough to know it wouldn’t be too hard, and so felt confident that we could make a batch or two for dinner.
So we did.
First, to get you started – what is gnocchi?
Well, my preferred variety is made of potatoes, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact my understanding is that the makeup of a single gnoccho (singular for gnocchi, which I had to look up because I have never heard of it – I guess they’re like Lays chips – can’t have just one?) really depends on the area of Italy you’re in, which makes sense since my understanding is that pasta itself developed from the idea of using what you had on hand to make a meal. Essentially, gnocchi are parcels of soft thick dough. As I said, the base isn’t necessarily potatoes – though it’s common. You can use regular wheat flour semolina, parsley and soft cheeses like ricotta. Essentially you combine your ingredients until a thickish dough forms, then you roll it out into long cylinders and cut little dumplings out of it. Then you can boil them up, pan fry them, serve them with soup or on their own or as my Beloved loves to do – smother them in tomato sauce and mozza. Whatever your preference.
Now that we’re on board with what gnocchi are – dumplings – and my preferred type – potato – let’s move towards that recipe, shall we?
You will need:
- 1 kilo of potatoes
- 350-400 g flour
- generous pinch of salt
- 2 egg yolks
What you will do:
Boil those potatoes! What I do is use a fork to poke holes in the potatoes then put them in a pot of cold water, turn the heat up to high and boil away from 20-30 min, until my fork can go right through the flesh without much resistance, but before the potatoes start breaking into pieces when addled. When they’re done, just lift them out of the water and set them aside to cool before peeling them and then ricing them (if you don’t have a ricer you can mash them too) into a big bowl.
Add a generous pinch of salt, the flour and the eggs and stir until combined.
Sprinkle some flour on a flat surface, turn out your dough and knead until you get a good working dough. Roll out into long sausages and then cut out thumb-nail size sections. Now you can leave them like that or use a fork to “decorate” them (by sliding each parcel along the back of the fork creating indents). Either way, lay them out on a baking sheet and leave them out for a bit to dry out (this just makes them easier to work with).
If you’re making them right away: Boil a salted pot of water. When the big bubbles start, throw in your gnocchi. They’ll be ready when they float to the surface – just take a slotted spoon and spoon them out.
If you’re not making them right away: Let them dry out, then put them in a ziploc bag and freeze them. They’re good for a while and freeze well.
Super easy AND you know exactly what you’re getting when you chow down.
The gnocchi in the pictures is a whole wheat version that’s been pan fried in brown butter and sage and topped with fontina and parmesan cheese. I highly recommend pan-frying gnocchi. It develops a great crust along the bottom and a wonderful crunchy texture for the outside. All you need to pan fry is a knob of butter, a handful of sage (or rosemary or whatever you fancy), and the cheese(es) of your choice. Just put the boiled gnocchi into a pan of melted butter and sage, stir it around, top with the cheese. If you want a bubbly crust on top, just preheat the oven to about 400F and pop the whole thing into the oven for 5 minutes or so (make sure the pan you’re using is oven safe).
Instant dinner, no powdered cheese needed! 😀