Makin’ Gnocchi


Pronounced NYO-kee... or something like that.

One of the recipes that is going into the cookbook is my Gnocchi Casserole with Pesto, Broccoli and Sausage. It’s a simple dish with a lot of flavor and great for beginner cooks since it uses ready made ingredients.

A goal of the book, though, is to have a little something for everyone–an impossible dream, perhaps, but there you go. To increase the skill-level of the dish you can do a few things: make your own pesto, make your own sausage, or make your own gnocchi.

I’ve made gnocchi before and it’s really not difficult (though a little finesse doesn’t hurt), but it’s not something most folks have tried and it’s a fun way to impress folks with your kitchen prowess. While gnocchi can be made with flour like any other pasta, the most common gnocchi that comes to mind is a product of  mashed potatoes bulked up with eggs and flour, formed into little dumplings and boiled briefly. There’s no special equipment required (unless you count a fork as special equipment) and the technique is very simple.

Potato Gnocchi

1 pound of potatoes
1 egg
3/4 c flour
1 tsp salt

Peel, cube and boil potatoes in salted water until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Drain and mash and allow to cool to room temperature.

Mix in egg, flour and salt gently until combined. Divide the dough into 4 portions and gently roll into a long, 3/4-inch-thick rope of dough. Divide each rope into 8 portions for a total of 32 gnocchi.

To form, take each segment, place one cut side against the fork at the base of the tines, smoosh down with your index finger, then roll the dumpling down the fork tines to create ridges on one side and a slightly concave shape on the back.

Place gnocchi in boiling water and boil until they float, just a few minutes unless you’ve chilled them before cooking them or have added a lot to the pot.

Sauce and serve immediately or top with sauce and cheese and finish in the oven, depending on your recipe.

Basic Gnocchi Formation

Basic Gnocchi Formation

These gnocchi end up rather large once cooked so you can also cut them in half before forming–that’s personal preference. The grooves created by the fork tines are great for catching sauces, same as the dent on the back where you finger was pressing. Finally, placing the cut end on the fork is my personal preference–I think the sides pushing out created a nicer, rounded end on the finished gnocchi than the blunt cut edges.

Having made them before, I was curious to know what different flours would do to the gnocchi. Obviously (just like in baking) whole wheat flour is going to taste and look different but what will it do to the texture. It’s a safe bet they might be a bit heavier or solid, less fluffy pillows compared to the all-purpose flour I’d used before. But what about cake flour? I had some in the pantry so I figured I’d give that a try, too!

A Tale of 3 Gnocchi--Cake, All Purpose and Whole Wheat Flours

A Tale of 3 Gnocchi--Cake, All Purpose and Whole Wheat Flours

Surprisingly enough, the cake flour gnocchi really were lighter in color and texture with a purer flavor than even the bleached all-purpose flour gnocchi. The whole wheat gnocchi was heavier, yes, but it had a great, nutty flavor and would pair very well with a thick, rich sauce. The wheat gnocchi were also amazing reheated the next day!

Comfort Food


Comfort foods can come in many forms: favorite recipes from childhood, treats remembered for special occasions or just starch-, fat- or sugar-laden dishes that offer a chemical reaction we associate with happiness as well as satiety. Usually considered a guilty pleasure or indulgence, I have a hard time seeing all comfort food as all bad and, I think, as long as it’s not an everyday occurrence or in massive quantities, a little comfort can go a long way.

One of the reasons this came to mind (aside from the impending holidays and increasingly cooler weather, both of which set my taste buds craving those sorts of foods) is the birthday meal I prepared for a friend last winter and is mentioned in this week’s comics. It’s pretty simple to prepare and not particularly unhealthy, so I thought I’d share.

Gnocchi Casserole with Pesto, Sausage and Broccoli

1 lb Gnocchi
Salted water
1 lb Turkey sausage, sliced
Olive oil
1 lb Broccoli, steamed
1/2 c Prepared pesto
Non-stick spray
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, shredded

Boil gnocchi in enough salted water to cover until tender. Simultaneously, saute sliced sausage in a bit of olive oil until the edges crisp. Drain pasta and combine with sausage and broccoli. Whisk together the pesto and enough olive oil to thin it out enough to lightly coat all of the other ingredients.

Prepare a 9×12 baking dish with non-stick spray (I prefer the olive oil variety, but any will do). Toss the thinned pesto with the gnocchi, sausage and broccoli and pour all into the prepared dish. Top with cheese and place in a 350-degree for 15-20 minutes.

Now, of course, this can be done up til the baking and put in the fridge until later. Just up the baking time to 30 minutes or more, or as long as it takes to bring everything up to a nice and toasty 165 degrees. Cover with foil if it seems to be drying out or browning a little too much. You can also make your own gnocchi if you’re so moved, but I remember getting the gnocchi and pesto at World Market (CostPlus in some areas) and both being very high quality.

How much you thin the pesto is up to personal preference–I tend to think a little goes a long way–and how thick the pesto is to begin with. Chances are you’ll have pesto left over. To preserve the rest of the pesto until the next use, add a layer of olive oil to the jar and store in the fridge. This will prevent the pesto from drying out while in cold storage.