My perfect Valentine’s Day meal would be something rich and luxurious, comforting yet special, and, of course, homemade. This year’s meal choice definitely hit the nail on the head. If there was ever a time to use “#nailedit” without sarcasm, this is it.
Joe and I absolutely love gnocchi. It’s by far our favorite pasta and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making it for quite some time. Only problem…I don’t own, or want to own, a potato ricer. We have a long history of small kitchens, so having a kitchen tool that only does one thing…or, even worse, would only really be used for one dish…is one of my no-nos. I just can’t justify the expense or the precious space.
Leave it to Deb of Smitten Kitchen to blow my mind with the tip that you can make gnocchi using a hand grater instead and it’s just as good.
<insert all of the !!!!!!!!!!s here>
She was right.
It was easy. It was delicious. And it was so perfect for Valentine’s Day. I mean, what’s more romantic than a bowl full of soft, pillowy pasta swimming in a rich broth?
Since Joe was helping me, I’ve got tonnnns of step-by-step photos. Four hands > Two. Especially when two are covered in flour for most of the experiment. Let’s get to it!
There are a lot of sauces that pair well with gnocchi, but since we had a killer-rich dessert and the gnocchi is already pretty filling we opted for a tomato-based broth instead of a pesto or butter sauce.
The best part is that you can make the broth a day in advance and reheat right before serving. Total timesaver when your mind can only focus on making your first batch of gnocchi as perfect as possible. There was no time to babysit a sauce too.
You start by sweating out the vegetables. We didn’t have any celery, so I doubled the carrots. I wanted their sweetness.
The broth gets its richness from wine. Normally for a tomato sauce I’d use red wine, but this recipe calls for white. Who am I to argue?
You simmer it for days (not really, just 45 minutes) before straining the vegetables to leave you the most fragrant broth.
Let it cool and pack it up for the fridge until the next day.
Gnocchi can be made with lots of different types of potato: Russet, Yukon, Red, Sweet….whatever you want. The key is to balance each’s water content with the minimum amount of flour needed to make the dough. Deb called for Russets, so that’s what we used. Once cooked in the oven and slightly cooled, we set up our faux-ricer station: a box grater over a large bowl.
The potatoes were still pretty hot, so I worked fast and used smaller sections I could lay flat against the grater. The potatoes will crumble slightly, but you can keep picking up sections and passing them through the largest holes.
You’re left with a bowl of perfect “riced” potatoes. Light and fluffy and ready for flour, salt and an egg. Seriously, it’s that simple.
Once you add everything together, it’s time to knead and develop that lovely gluten. haha
It’s official. I want Joe in the kitchen with me all day, every day. How awesome are his photos? I’d be jealous of his mad skills if I wasn’t so in love with him.
Next up: Slice dough into sections, start rolling out your snakes and cutting the pasta into 1/2-inch pieces.
The recipe calls for 1-inch pieces, which we did, but they puff up so much in the water, so I’d make them much smaller next time to keep ’em dainty.
You can easily stop here and drop these babies in their salty bath (or freeze them in a single layer for later use), or you can make them more official and give them grooves (namely for sauce-holding purposes). We watched a few videos online to master the skill before trying. It’s not hard at all, though.
Flour the fork, press it down, roll it off. Repeat.
Joe got in on the action too.
The key to gnocchi, I’m convinced, is flour. Have it handy to keep that dough moving. It’s a sticky situation otherwise.
Once you’ve prepped and grooved them all, they are ready to be cooked and added to the reheated broth.
Quite a sight.
Top it with parmesan shavings and maybe some chopped basil, and you’re all set.
You can pair just about any vegetable as a side, but we went for roasted asparagus….my favorite vegetable to roast.
We were going to top with hollandaise, but my brain was in gnocchi-mode and I botched it. So, we went with a butter-herb drizzle and it was perfect.
Seriously, between this and the cake, it was the most perfect Valentine’s meal I’ve ever made. (#humblebrag) And, thanks to Joe, I have a million (amazing) photos to prove it.
Homemade Gnocchi in Tomato Broth
Source: Smitten Kitchen / Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium stalk celery, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 c. white wine
28-oz can whole or chopped tomatoes with juices
Small handful fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Gnocchi (Adapted from About.com)
2 lbs. Russet potatoes
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Make tomato broth:
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. One it’s hot, add the carrot, celery, and onion, and cook together for 5 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if they begin to brown. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more. Pour in the wine, and use it to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then cook the wine unti it is reduced by half, for several minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, mashing them a bit if they’re whole, and the basil and stock, and simmer until the tomato broth thickens slightly, for about 45 minutes. Strain out the vegetables in a fine-mesh colander, and season the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until needed.(Or let cool completely and store, covered, in fridge until the next day.)
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, and bake them on a baking sheet for 45 minutes to one hour, or until they are fork-tender. For best results, turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time. Let the potatoes cool slightly.
Peel the potatoes, and then grate them over the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg and the salt to the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Add the flour to the potatoes a little at a time, using only as much as you need so that the dough will not stick to your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, bring the dough together with your fingertips.
Dump the dough and any remaining floury bits onto a slightly floured surface. Knead the dough as you would bread dough. Press down and away with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over, make a quarter turn, and repeat the process. Knead for about three or four minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and then divide it into 6 smaller balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the six pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1/2-inch pieces.
You can cook the gnocchi as it is now, but traditional gnocchi has ridges. To create the ridges, press each piece of dough against the tines of a fork. With your finger, gently roll the pressed dough back off the fork. Dip the fork in flour before you press the dough against it.
Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly floured or parchment-lined dish. If you’d like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray and once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag. This ensures that you won’t have one enormous gnocchi mass when you are ready to cook them.
To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling and well-salted water. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, reheat broth to a simmer. Add drained gnocchi then reheat through. Serve gnocchi and broth together, garnished with a few slivers of basil leaves and/or parmesan shavings.