Ciao ciao tutti. Welcome to your next course in basic pasta making. Gnocchi can be made from just about anything: pumpkin, potatoes, cheese, or just simply flour. The ingredients may change but the basic process of creating and rolling gnocchi is much the same.
As I wrote yesterday, I spent this past Friday afternoon whipping up some fresh Ricotta and using it to roll out a shit ton of gnocchi for a dinner party with some friends. Rachel, a close friend and fellow coworker, set up an aphrodisiac-stylee dinner party where each menu course would have at least one aphro, oops…my pants fell down…how’d that happen? It was the ‘desiacs, I swear! Pants intact, I chose to make Ricotta Gnocchi with nutmeg (an aphro) in browned butter with sage (an aphro by certain people’s standards). Below is the recipe I used:
2lbs Homemade Riccota
1-1.5 Cups AP Flour
1/4 Cup Grated Pecorino
1-2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tsp Salt
1-2 Tsp Grated Fresh Nutmeg, just enough to get a hint of nutmeg, too much can ruin the whole batch
1/2 Cup Semolina Flour (for dusting the finished gnocchi with)
Mix all of the ingredients with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. On a large board lay down flour and start to knead the dough like any other pasta dough, adding just enough flour to form a cohesive ball (top pic). Allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling your gnocchi.
Once the dough has rested, cut the dough into 8 equal parts and roll each piece into a 1/2″ dowel.
Cut each dowel then into 1″ pieces (or smaller/larger if you prefer) gnocchi and roll across a fork to create the grooves that will help hold the sauce. This takes a little practice but after a few pieces you’ll get the hang of it. Place each gnocchi onto a sheet pan with plenty of Semolina flour to keep them from sticking to the pan or together.
These are best eaten rather soon after rolling so they do not become too dense or freeze immediately and use any other time, just be sure to freeze them on the sheet pan before transferring them to a freezer bag so they don’t stick. To finish just boil in plenty of salted water (should taste like the ocean as my friend Adrian so eloquently pointed out, brava!) until they float to the top.
To make the sage butter, simply heat 1/4 – 1/2 cup of high quality butter ( I used Maple View farms north of Chapel Hill) in a large, heavy skillet. The butter’s water will begin to bubble off leaving you with a pan full of lightly browned butter. Kill the heat and toss in the sage leaves and allow to fry for a short second. Then transfer the gnocchi to the skillet and allow to cook and crisp without too much stirring for 2-3 minutes.
I use this same sage butter for tortellini, ravioli, and other dense pastas that are flavorful on their own. The mix of earthy nutmeg, milky ricotta, nutty browned butter, and aromatic sage is…well, almost erotic. The gnocchi melt away in your mouth as the sage butter coats every one of your tastebuds, che manico, no?
…excuse me, that got carried away, it’s all these damn aphros. Anywho, among the other delicious dishes was a white bean and basil (aphro) dip, prosciutto wrapped asparagus (aphro), mustard (aphro) encrusted pork loins, and plenty of chocolate (aphro) desserts as well as Pignioli cookies that Megs made for me which I’ll post about this week (and yes, pine nuts are an aphro too, good call lady).
Then things went a little pear shaped. I brought my last bottle of homemade meyer-lemon Limoncello which is basically lemon flavored lighter fluid. That lead to a round of wine tasting followed by a couple games including a card game that our new Welsh friend, and fellow rugger, Lewis showed us. All you do is fill a glass with a shot of something (in this case whiskey…my least favorite thing ever) and place a deck of cards on top. Each person tries to blow a few cards off the deck, the goal being to leave at least one card on but not blow them all off. If you leave one card on, the person next to you takes the shot. Blow them all off, you take the shot. My luck: first blowing them all off, ugh, then Rachel blowing all but one off, struuuugggs….Needless to say I became quite intimate with a couple bushes in the backyard (above).
As a rugby player I pride myself in my drinking-game capabilities but whiskey is a different beast all together, and two shots of the poison in a matter of minutes doesn’t help either. All bodily explosions aside, the night was a blast and the food was superb. Hopefully Pasta 103 will cause a lot less personal injury. Big thanks to Rachel and Adrian for hosting a great Valentines dinner full of good eats, but an even bigger F*@# you to Johnny Walker, and your black label!