How to Make Gnocchi

When I decide there’s some sort of classic recipe I want to try and make, this is normally what my brainstorming process looks like:

(don’t mind the note about the calcium…I took notes when my doctor told me I had low bone density, haha)

When it comes to popular recipes like banana bread, crockpot chicken, ratatouille, or gnocchi, there are a lot of people who claim to have found the end-all-be-all recipe for that dish. So I usually compile all their words of wisdom and try to make it into one epic combination of all their ideas. When I saw butternut squash gnocchi on Kristin’s (Iowa Girl Eats) blog, she made it seem so simple that I knew I had to try it. I looked up a couple of other recipes, as well as one from a blogger I consider a master (smitten kitchen) and got to work.

Here’s the most important things I gathered from the above 4 recipes:

  • Traditional gnocchi is made with potatoes that have been sent through a ricer or a food mill. Most people don’t have these. A food processor or box grater are acceptable alternatives.
  • The less flour you add, the better.
  • You can achieve this by, when waiting for your potatoes to cool, spreading them out on a plate and letting as much steam escape as possible.
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash…. they’re all fine to use. Just don’t add too much flour!

On we go!

When I got home to make my gnocchi, I realized that my sweet potatoes were actually rather small. Maybe only a little over a pound total.

So my recipe worked out like this:

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

1-1/4 lb sweet potatoes
1 egg yolk
1/2-3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

First, you cook the sweet potatoes. I would recommend piercing them with a knife and roasting them. I would have, but my apartment was this hot the day I made gnocchi:

So I used the microwave.

(BTW, our microwave is broken and my roommate and I actually kind of totally live off leftovers, so we plugged in another one… in our living room.)

I did about 6 minutes (3 on each side) for the larger potato, and 4 minutes for the smaller one.

I decided to use my box grater instead of my food processor to break down the potatoes. It worked great…However, be advised that it’s not easy grating hot potatoes, and you will get some texture in your final gnocchi. I actually really liked it 🙂

After grating the potatoes is the time you will spread them on a plate so they can release steam. (You’ll probably need to release some steam too, after grating cooked potatoes. Go ahead, enjoy a glass of wine.)

Once the potatoes haves cooled down to a level at which you can handle them (pretty cool), gather them into a ball on a floured surface.

Create a small well and add egg yolk and 1/2 cup of flour. I went with less flour than was called for in the recipe, in case I needed to add more later (which I did).

You could also add the salt at this point, but I didn’t. I opted to add my salt into the pasta water instead.

Mix it all together and it should look something like this!

Split up your pasta dough into 3 ropes. This is probably the part where you may need to add a little bit more flour.

You should make your ropes about the size of the one on top (1/2-3/4 inch thick)…the other two created some ginormous gnocchi, haha.

Next step…cut off small pieces of each rope! I tried making the traditional ridges with my fork, but they still didn’t look anything like gnocchi, so I just went Kristin’s (Iowa Girl Eats) route and left them “rustic” 😛

To cook the gnocchi, simply drop them in boiling salted water and cook until they all float to the top! It doesn’t take long, 3-4 minutes max!

Not bad for my first homemade pasta, eh?! Grandma Kitty would be proud! (My great grandma from Italy for whom I was named…My parents opted to shorten Katherine to Katie instead of Kitty like she did, thankfully)

If you’re not going to eat the gnocchi right away, it freezes perfectly. Freeze gnocchi on a sheet when they’re still separated like this, then once they’re all frozen, toss ’em in a bag. Freezing them separately first makes it so they don’t all become a big pile of sweet potato in the freezer.

Stay tuned for another fall-ish how to later this week or next week!

Have you ever made pasta before? If not, what’s your favorite kind to eat? 😛

Spicy Pesto Pasta with Sausage

I may not look like it, but I’m pretty damn Italian.

^^ That picture? Two whitey white kids with blonde hair? Case in point. (Sidenote: when I posted this picture of me & my brother on Facebook, one of my friends aptly noted that we look like we “just got off the boat from Holland.”)

No, but seriously, my mom’s family is quite Italian. They have hailed from New York (AKA Land of the Italians) since all the way back when my great-grandmother — after whom I was named — came to Ellis Island from Italy as a wee child. (Sorry, a bit of my Irish grandma who married my great grandma’s Italian son got in there! Identity crisis much?)

The result of this upbringing on my Pop was then transferred to my mom and now to me: an intense love of homemade Italian food. Italian food at every important family meal. Christmas? Italian food. Birthdays? Italian food. Thanksgiving? …OK OK, my mom hasn’t gone so far as to introduce pasta on Thanksgiving to my dad’s West Coast family…but I wouldn’t put it past her.

I mentioned in (the comments section of) my recipe for homemade tomato sauce that my mom has always made sauce from scratch. In addition to that, she does a lot of stuffed shells and stuffed cannelloni. But there’s something that she has started doing in the past few years that I finally got on board with trying for myself: homemade pesto pasta.

My parents have a walnut tree and a pretty steady supply of basil during the summer, so when fall comes around and the walnuts start dropping from our tree, my mom whips up a bunch of tubs of pesto to freeze and use later.

To make my pesto, I used……what I had on hand. Which included hazelnuts. It made for a really interestingly spicy pesto, which I decided to pair with an interestingly spicy sausage, and it resulted in an amazingly delicious pasta dish.

Spicy Pesto Pasta with Sausage
makes 2 generous servings

~2 cups uncooked whole wheat farfalle or penne pasta (2 servings)
1/3 cup prepared pesto (recipe below)
2 spicy Italian sausages (I have no clue what kind mine were because they were left in my freezer after a BBQ. They were hot and I think they had jalapenos in them :-P)
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup scallions or onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
olive oil
Parmesan, for garnish (optional)

2 heaping cups basil
1/4 cup hazelnuts (traditionally, you could use pine nuts or walnuts, but I liked how the hazelnuts paired with the sausage)
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbsp olive oil

Prepare pesto by combining basil, hazel nuts and garlic in a food processor. Process until it’s the consistency of a paste, then drizzle in olive oil until it reaches your preferred consistency. Set aside.

Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente, per package instructions. When pasta is finished, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.

While pasta is cooking, prepare veggies and slice sausages into medallion shaped pieces. Heat a little bit of olive oil on a skillet at medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown on both sides, probably about 5 minutes total. Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel. If needed, add a little more olive oil, followed by the bell pepper, garlic, and scallions. Use pasta water to deglaze the pan if needed.

Once vegetables are tender, turn stove down to medium heat and add pesto to the pan. If desired, thin it out with about 1/2 a cup of pasta water. Stir everything to coat. Add sausage back in, again stirring to coat. Let the sauce heat through for about 5 minutes before adding in the pasta and mixing everything together. If the pesto is still too chunky for your liking, add in more pasta water.

Garnish with Parmesan (since we left it out of the pesto) and devour.

Note: My family prefers to use bowtie (farfalle) pasta when we make pesto because the sauce really clings to all the little folds. I used penne and it worked just fine! Just look for something with ridges, you don’t want a smooth pasta.

Spicy sausage simmering in herby oily nutty sauce. What could be better?

Tomato Sauce from Scratch: Who Needs Therapy?

Sometimes, days don’t go your way.

Sometimes, you wake up to realize that you forgot to put your breakfast yogurt in your boyfriend’s fridge and left it out overnight. And that your work shirt is at home. And you’re 15 minutes late. And why are there 5 other people in this elevator all going to different floors, it’s 9:15 why can’t you people show up on time?!

Sometimes, you then find out that you have to delay getting your cast off (bringing your total cast-wearing time up to 10 weeks) because the firm you work for wants to send you down to a work training. One day only, no room for rescheduling. 10 hours of travel for a 1.5 hour training.

This is all okay…No meltdowns yet.

Until you lose your house key on your lunchtime jog. Then it’s time for a meltdown.

I think everyone’s entitled to a meltdown every so often. Even Joy the Baker says so. For me, that day was yesterday.

Here’s another thing that went wrong and was much more time-consuming than originally thought: tomato sauce from scratch.

But for some reason, it worked. It was therapeutic, even.

It took forever. Seeds got through. It wasn’t perfect…But dammit, it was rustic. And I made it myself! I had something to show for my frustration. Maybe it’s the Italian in me.

At least I made a dent in my parents’ ever-growing tomato bounty:

(This was how many they had left after I used all of the above tomatoes to make tomato sauce)

Put your tomatoes to use. Make some tomato sauce. Peel the tomatoes, gut them and squeeze out the seeds. Who needs therapy? I’ve got food.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
makes ~2 heaping cups (2-3 servings)

10 small/medium vine ripe tomatoes
1/2 small onion, diced very finely
1/2 green bell pepper, also diced finely
1 clove garlic, diced
olive oil

Prepare water to boil, and fill a bowl with ice and cold water. Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, then plunge into boiling water. Remove after 1 minute with a slotted spoon and transfer to ice bath. If it doesn’t seem like the skin is loose yet, keep ’em in for a minute longer.

Once tomatoes are cooled, the skin should slide off very easily. Cut tomatoes lengthwise and squeeze out all of the seeds over a strainer, saving any juices that gather in a bowl beneath. This may take a while. Now is where you decide if you want a chunky or thin sauce. I like a little bit of both, so I put about 6-7 of the seeded tomatoes in a food processor and pulsed a few times. For the rest of the tomatoes, I chopped them up coarsely.

Heat olive oil in a pot and saute onions, garlic and peppers until tender, only a couple minutes. Then, add in pureed and crushed tomatoes. Add herbs and simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes. Take peeks every 5 to 10 minutes to stir, season with salt and pepper, and to see if the sauce is reducing and thickening. If it is, add in the reserved juices from earlier.

When sauce has reached desired consistency, remove from heat and serve!

Notes: If you’re using a food processor to puree everything, might as well chop your onion and pepper in there too (separately)! Next, my sauce started out really watery and I didn’t think I’d have to add in any juices — as it thickened, I actually ended up adding almost all of the juice! Finally, feel free to add sausage, turkey, or lean ground beef. Just add it to the pot when you saute the onions and peppers!

T-Man was supposed to eat stir-fry that night, but I think he was pleased with his alternative:

Anyone else find cooking therapeutic?


For meals that were not at all stressful to cook, check out my next entry with photos of some gourmet French meals I was lucky to be treated to when I studied abroad!