Thursday, November 4, 2010

Potato Gnocchi - four in one

Since our trip to Florence I've been planning to make Gnocchi, which is basically a potato based pasta in shape of little bites. I tried 2 or 3 different version in different restaurants and really loved it. They have a nice texture of spongy dough and you can combine them with any sauce or just garlic flavored butter. They are (relatively) easy to cook and served with various sauces make a nice and diverse dinner. So today I finally dared and I think it was quite a success.

For Gnocchi:

1 kg russet potatoes, with skin
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (or a bit more) flour
salt, fresh ground pepper and nutmeg to taste

1. Cook the potatoes until you could easily stick a fork in them. Don't overcook them though.
2. Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them and peel the skin off.
3. Mash the potatoes until there are no lumps in them, but not too long or they might turn into glue.
4. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix well. Pour in the egg and mix fast. Don't let the egg cook.
5. While mixing with your hands, gradually add the flour. Keep adding flour until you get a dough that is not sticking to your hands. It should be firm but not too hard.
6. Take some of the dough and roll on a floured board into a "snake" of about 1.5cm in diameter.
7. With a sharp knife cut into bites of about 2cm long. Dust with some flour and set aside. Continue with the next portion of dough until you use all of it.
8. Optionally you could shape your gnocchi by pressing them against a fork, creating little cuts on the surface. They look more "artistic" this way! But if you are bored or have no time you could skip this step.
9. In a large pot boil the water and add some salt. Carefully put the first batch of gnocchi in. Cook for few minutes. You will see that they are ready when they float on the surface. Don't cook them too long or they will absorb too much water and become very heavy and hard to digest. Remove with a slotted spoon just about half a minute after they start floating. Proceed with the next batch.

At this point you could either serve them with the sauce or you could first fry them a little in some butter just enough to make them a bit golden. Personally I liked the fried version a lot, although my man preferred just the cooked version. I guess that's matter of taste.

For the serving I prepared 4 different version, the easiest being just dipped in some Crème fraiche and sprinkled with black pepper. Simple and delicious!

Here are the rest of the recipes. Of course you always use a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese.

Bolognese sauce:

500gr ground beef
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 tbsp dry oregano
10-12 grains allspice
salt, ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1. In a large sauce pan heat the oil.
2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for few minutes until the onion is golden.
3. Add the beef and cook until the meat is brown.
4. Pour in the wine, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes and the spices, cover and simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes.
5. Add the fresh basil and cook for 5 minutes more.

Pesto sauce:

5 tbsp green pesto
1 tbsp Crème fraiche
1 tbsp chopped nuts
some of the Cnocchi water

1. Mix all the ingredients except for water in a small bowl until the mixture is uniform.
2. Add some of the Gnocchi water and mix. At the end the sauce should be sort of liquid but still creamy.

Garlic flavored butter:

3-4 tbsp butter or margarine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp dry thyme

1. In a small pan melt the butter.
2. Lower the heat, add the garlic, pine nuts and thyme and cook until the garlic is lightly golden.

You could prepare the sauces while waiting for the water to boil. This way you will have both the Gnocchi and the sauces ready more or less at the same time, so you could serve them immediately!

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