Nice to Gnocchi
Updated: Jul 24, 2021
I think the first time I had gnocchi was during college. After all, that’s a time in your life where you’re expected to experiment with new things! I was at a party, different foods were being passed around...you know how it is.
For most of my life gnocchi wasn’t something that was ever served for dinner. As a younger Viking I’d sometimes see it on the menu at Italian restaurants, but was never really curious enough to find out what it was. Probably because silent Gs seem strange and unnatural to me.
When I finally did get around to trying it in my collegiate abandon, I was pleasantly surprised. Gnocchi are like little fluffy pillows of pasta, but not in a weird kind of way. They’re perfect little delivery systems for a good sauce that will completely coat them and not just go draining to the bottom of the bowl. And even though I’ve known for a while now how delicious gnocchi is, I rarely ever have it. Why? I have no clue. Every time I have it, I really enjoy it.
For those of you not in the know about gnocchi, they’re made from either potato or ricotta and are actually considered dumplings, not pasta. However, I’ve mostly seen them used the same ways as you would pasta. Also, since I haven’t made gnocchi from scratch yet (#goals), we’re going to be more focused on making a delicious cream sauce with some herbs and sundried tomatoes for them to get friendly with.
Viking’s note: As with a lot of dishes that I make, like my meatball stroganoff I tend to make them so that they are modular and different pieces can be repurposed and/or leftovers end up better. The herb mixture and sundried tomatoes can be done well ahead of time and have other uses. Also, if you were to use some rigatoni, rotini, or other robust bite sized noodle instead of gnocchi, you’re probably not going to be too upset with the result.
1 cup of rough chop parsley
1 cup of rough chop cilantro
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 ¼ in slice of medium yellow onion
⅓ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
Truth is, I have no idea what to call this. It’s not really a pesto, chimichurri, or gremolata. But one thing I’ve learned is that if you take a bunch of leafy herbs and throw them in a food processor with some garlic, decent olive oil, and maybe a few other goodies, it’s probably going to be delicious.
Oh, and it’ll keep a couple days in the fridge so you can use it on other things like steaks and chicken and such.
To make it, pretty much just throw everything in a food processor with the chopping attachment and let it run after pulsing a few times to get it going. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times with a spatula. The spatula is key, because what do we say to the emergency room? “Not today!”
Keep in mind that you may need to add a little more or less oil to get the right consistency. I usually start with 2 Tbsp and then add in more as everything gets chopped more and more fine. But what is the right consistency?! Think more spreadable than pourable and definitely not drizzleable. But as always, this dish is your world, you can make it whatever you want. And plus Julia Child talked frequently about not worrying so much when you mess up in the kitchen. So that’s something to consider.
Either way, don’t forget to season to taste before you put it in a sealed container in the fridge for later.
Extra virgin olive oil (if you have extra)
Sun-dried cherry tomatoes are one of those things that are just nice to have around. They’re perfect for sauces, or soups, or potato/pasta salads or whatever else floats your boat. The best part is, you can just get a jar of them from the store if you don’t want to make them yourself.
If you have your own way to dry tomatoes like in a dehydrator or something, that’s cool. Here’s what I did. Get whatever quantity of cherry tomatoes you’re comfortable with and slice them into little hemispheres. Scatter them on a sheet tray, maybe with a silicone mat or some parchment under it so they don’t stick, and then scatter a few twigs of your herbs around on top.
Put your pan in a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours, or until your tomatoes are dry. Okay so, we didn’t use the sun, but “dry tomatoes” just doesn’t have the same ring.
If you chose to make a huge amount, like me, throw these in a cute little jar with a lid and fill it with extra virgin olive oil. Bonus points if you throw in a little bit of garlic that was smashed with the back of your knife and then given a rough chop. After this sits in your pantry for a little while, the oil can be used for dressings and such.
16 oz frozen or fresh gnocchi
I’m not super concerned about how you come about getting your gnocchi. But I’ve heard of some gnocchi deals going very badly out on the streets. So I opted to buy a bag of frozen ricotta gnocchi from my local grocery store, boil a pot of salted water, and follow the preparation instructions on the bag about how long to boil them (5-8 minutes). I’m said to believe that fresh gnocchi only takes 2-3 minutes and floats when it’s done.
Once they have reached the prescribed amount of doneness and have been drained, that’s when the real fun can start.
The cream always rises
1 cup heavy cream
1 oz mozzarella
⅓ cup shredded parmesan
2-4 tablespoons herbal essence mixture
Sun-dried tomatoes to taste
Tossing pasta, or in this case dumplings, in sauce is something that I think the stainless steel frying pan is fantastic at. This is even more so when we’re going to be reducing cream with some cheeses mixed in.
Start with 2 tablespoons of butter in your pan over medium heat. Once melted and the bubbles stop, add your herb mixture and sun dried tomatoes. If you’re vehemently anti-vampire, like myself, you could even add a little more minced garlic. You’ll get some sizzling, so beware of little drops of hot oil that may try to jump up to bite you. Stir continuously for a minute or two to infuse the butter with all of the delicious flavors that we just introduced.
At this point, we want to add the well drained gnocchi to the pan. I emphasize them being well drained because combining sizzling hot butter and water isn’t the best idea you’ve had today. Toss them about in the pan and stir for an additional minute or two to get the buttery flavors infused into the gnocchi itself.
After all those flavors get well acquainted, slowly stir in your cream. Then stir in your cheeses and keep stirring regularly until everything is melted and well combined. You’ll want to adjust your heat so that everything is at a light simmer. Then comes the hard part. We need to wait a little while occasionally stirring and monitoring the heat so that the cream reduces and doesn’t burn. And sometime right before it’s ready, you should season to taste.
And how do you know when it’s ready?!
At this point, you’re ready to put this deliciousness on a plate. If you’re opting for the vegetarian route, you don’t have to add anything to it. But for those of us seeking a little more meat outta life, feel free to top this dish with a chicken breast, some bacon, steak, or you can do what I did and opt for smoked pulled pork shoulder that I got out of the freezer from last fall. (BBQ freezes extremely well in little care packages for future you. I can’t wait to get the smoker going again!)
Don’t forget a little extra sauce, grated parmesan, and parsley on top to fully satisfy all of your daily nutritional requirements.
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