“Behold! I am Cashios, god of cash back! Can you tell me where to find gnocchi?”, he asks of the grocery store employee stocking shelves. Alright, this may just be another, let’s dumb down viewers’ minds, commercial, but still, how many know what food item he is looking for? I do, I do!
We are talking about Gnocchi (nok-ki); light, small dumplings made from semolina or wheat flour, potatoes or ricotta cheese. Tracing back their history to ancient Roman times (no wonder the commercial actor was dressed as a Roman), gnocchi is a popular dish, not only in Italy, but in coastal Croatia as well. The making of it is similar to pasta making; simple ingredients of a "flour", whether a ground grain or potatoes, egg and salt. Some recipes can be quite inventive, inducing cheese, sweet potatoes, or a vegetable such as spinach into the mix.
If you are pasta making challenged like myself, there are many brands of gnocchi available on the market such as DaVinci, Colavita and Don Peppe. Sold in one-pound packets, prices can vary from $4 to $8 dollars, depending on the type of market purchased from.
Interested in the attempt to make your own, here is how.
2 lbs. potatoes (not baking potatoes)
1 and ½ cups flour plus additional for rolling
1 tsp. salt
Boil the potatoes in hot salted water until fork tender. Let cool before removing skins; put through a ricer or grater into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 and ½ cups flour, egg and salt; knead together until a ball forms.
On a floured board, cut dough into 6 portions; roll out each portion to a ¾ inch diameter. Cut the rolls into one-inch pieces; use a fork to roll each piece.
The best way to prepare gnocchi is by finishing them off directly in the sauce being served with them. They will pick up all the flavors of the sauce, so you will not be overwhelmed with just a flour or potato flavor for the entire dish.
Wanting to make a fancy meal to impress your hunny, for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or anniversary? How about gnocchi in a sauce of browned butter, white wine and shallots. Shallots are basically "onion candy"; a delicate scent and sweet taste that will make you smile with delight, not cry your eyes out in pain.
Browned Butter Sauce with White Wine and Shallots
4 Tbsp. salted butter
2 large shallots, diced
¼ cup white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat; add shallots and stir occasionally to make sure butter and shallots are not sticking or burning. At same time, bring a large pot of water with salt to boil.
Remove skillet from stovetop and add wine; set skillet back on stove. Add gnocchi to boiling water; gnocchi will be ready when they float to the top; about 3-4 minutes. At the same time, the alcohol from the wine will burn off and the butter will begin turning brown. Strain the gnocchi well (water will dilute the sauce) and add directly to the skillet; let cook for 3 minutes, turning the gnocchi once in the sauce.
Plate and top with freshly ground black pepper.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Another sauce that is easy to make, and one to impress is one of my favorites, Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce. I tweaked the original recipe by adding in four types of Italian cheese. Again, this is a sauce that will be done by the time your pasta or gnocchi are cooked and ready to eat.
Creamy Four Cheese Tomato Vodka Sauce
4 cups (32 oz.) tomato puree
1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
½ cup vodka
¼ cup each grated Asiago, Romano and Parmesan cheeses
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp. each garlic and onion powders
1 tsp. Italian herb mixture, dried and crushed
1 lb. hot, cooked pasta or gnocchi
In a large pan, on medium-high heat, mix puree, cream and vodka together; let cook until small bubbles begin to form around rim. Whisk in and continuing whisking until smooth, the four cheeses. Whisk in the powders and herb mixture; serve over hot pasta or gnocchi.
Makes 4 servings.
My taste buds, and my hubby’s were definitely very, very happy.