Comfort food. It’s pretty much what I’m into these days. Rain has returned to Vancouver with a vengeance with the end of October, and it seems like it’s dark so early now.
I just want things that are warm and comforting.
Soups, stews, pastas… they all are filling and warm and immensely comforting this time of the year.
Traditionally, gnocchi is made in one of two ways: with cooked, starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash or sweet potatoes (see how here), or with a base of ricotta cheese. The ricotta method is my fave, as I’ve tried both, but find I get a more consistent result with the ricotta version.
This one includes the addition of avocado, one of those vegetables with the “good fats” that you might be wondering how to incorporate more of into your diet. Avocado are sweet and creamy, and they make a great addition to this dumpling, tinging it the lightest sage green colour.
I prepared it very simply by sauteing the finished gnocchi in butter and olive oil and pesto, and then adding a few sage leaves at the very end. I finished it with a grating of Parmesan cheese.
If you wanted to up the avocado quotient on this recipe, you could also make an avocado pasta sauce to toss it with.
It’s easy, healthy, delicious… pretty much everything you need for a cold November night.
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 scant cups of AP flour
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, avocado, Parmesan, butter, nutmeg, and add salt and pepper.
Stir in the flour, until the dough is cohesive, but still moist.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour. Divide the dough into quarters, and working with one quarter at a time, roll the dough out into a rope, about 1″ thick. Using a blunt knife, cut off 1-2″ chunks of the rope. Toss the gnocchi onto a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with flour.
Bring a large, salted pot of water to the boil, and add the gnocchi, one at a time. Cook in batches. They take about 3-4 minutes to cook, and you know when they are done, as they rise to the surface.
To finish the dish: melt a couple tablespoons of butter and tablespoon of EVOO in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan, and stir well. Fry for about 5 minutes, or until the gnocchi pick up some nice colour. Finish with a dollop of pesto that you stir into the pan. Serve with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese and freshly-ground black pepper.
Gnocchi, like fresh pasta, or risotto, is one of those recipes that appears simple at the outset, but actually is quite hard to make well. There are only a few ingredients–flour, eggs, some seasonings, and that’s about it. But understanding how to handle the dough, knowing when it’s ready, not overworking it, these are things that can take a lifetime to learn how to do properly.
I will admit to having a bit of a gnocchi obsession since eating Trevor Bird’s pillowy versions at Fable. Trevor gave me some great advice on how to make mine tender, as well, and you can read it here.
Still, it’s not something I’ve made as much as I thought I would. It’s quite a bit of work, and at my local market, they often go on sale for less than $2/package, which is when I stock up.
But there’s a different kind of gnocchi, which doesn’t involve any potatoes, yams or squash. It’s basically cheese, eggs and flour. I mean, c’mon! How could that possibly be bad??
Indeed, it is not. I’ve made these twice, now, and both times they turned out beautifully–soft and yummy–with a fraction of the work that it takes to make the potato kind.
1 1/2 cups grated hard cheese, similar to Parmesian, Romano or Peccorino (I used a Mountain Oak)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
1 large sprig of fresh sage
additional grated cheese to finish
In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta and eggs. Add the cheese, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Depending on how thick your ricotta is, you may want to use a handmixer for this part. Otherwise, you can use a whisk.
Add flour in 1/4 cup batches, stirring to form a soft, wet dough. When the dough starts to come away from the edges of the bowl, it’s ready. Place it aside for about 20 minutes to rest.
Take half the dough and heavily flour your working surface. Form the dough into a rope, and roll it out, until it’s about 1″ thick. Cut 1″ pieces out of the rope. Toss each piece on to a well-floured cookie sheet, and you can toss them around in the flour a little, as well, to make sure they don’t stick together.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Toss the gnocchi in, one at a time, until you have 20 or so in the pot. Give it a good stir, then let it go until the gnocchi rise to the top. Give them another minute, then remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon to a colander. Continue in batches until they are all cooked.
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the butter, then toss in the individual sage leaves. Add the gnocchi (you may need to do this in two batches so as not to overcrowd the pan), and season well with salt and pepper. Gently toss until the gnocchi are slightly brown and caramelized on the outside.
Serve in a bowl with additional gratings of cheese.