Saturday, September 6, 2008

Possibly the Very Best Thing I've Ever Made

What I made myself for dinner tonight was so good that I simply could not contain myself; I had to blog it tonight instead of waiting until tomorrow. Which actually works out well for you, because I still have another recipe for tomorrow. But right now the focus is all on the gnocchi.

Making the gnocchi dough calls for a potato volcano of sorts.

I've been a fan of the video podcast Crash Test Kitchen for quite some time now, but only recently did I go back and watch the episodes filmed before I subscribed on iTunes. Lo and behold, after watching quite a bit of idiosyncratic cooking, this masterpiece came to my attention. And since I got a bunch of fresh basil and some potatoes at the farmers' market this morning, I figured there was no better day to begin my foray into making pasta.

Just look at how cute they are!

That's right, for this recipe, you make your own pasta. It's actually surprisingly simple, albeit sticky, if you're making gnocchi. There's no rolling the dough impossibly thin to form noodles; instead you roll the dough into little logs, not dissimilar from a child with Play-Doh, then cut them. Really, it's a cinch. And the pesto was pretty much a snap, too, especially when I decided it would be silly to dirty the cheese grater on top of everything else and I just threw the Parmesan in the food processor with the basil, nuts, and garlic.

Heaven on a plate

Biting into my dinner was like eating a little bit of heaven; the gnocchi were like little pillows of air, and the pesto was light enough to match while still supplying terrific flavor. Upon further reflection, although only because I don't want to have started off my pasta-making endeavors with a difficult-to-repeat perfect 10, I came up with two ways this dish could possibly have been better. One, if I used my potato ricer, which is at home, instead of just a fork to mash the potatoes; this would have gotten rid of the very occasional lump in the pasta. And two, if my grocery store hadn't been out of pine nuts. But I must say, everything tasted better than fine with only a fork and some walnuts.

When all the gnocchi rise to the top, they're done cooking.

Potato Gnocchi with Pesto
adapted from Crash Test Kitchen

for the gnocchi:
4 large baking potatoes
1 egg
1/4 + 3/4 cups flour, plus some to coat the pasta

Bake the potatoes in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for one hour or until done. Scoop out the potatoes from their skins and mash together, making sure not to leave any lumps. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour on your flat working surface and place the mashed potatoes on top. Mold the potatoes in a volcano shape and crack the egg in the middle crater. Using your hands, work the egg evenly into the potatoes. Sprinkle 3/4 cups flour over the potato mixture and work it into the dough the same way. When the dough has the same consistency throughout, you're done. If it seems too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Cut the dough into 8 portions and, one at a time, roll each portion with your hands to create a log about the width of your finger and about a foot long. Cut each log into about 3/4-inch bits, then lightly coat them in flour to prevent sticking before placing them on a plate. Once you've cut all your gnocchi, place the plate in a refrigerator for 90 to 120 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to a full boil. Carefully dump the gnocchi into the water to cook; they will sink to the bottom of the pot. When all the gnocchi have risen to the surface, use a slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi from the water onto the serving plate. Don't worry about getting some pasta water on the plate; it will help to loosen the pesto.
Top with pesto and serve.
Note: You can make any sauce you want to go with these gnocchi.

A food processor makes fresh pesto easy.

for the pesto:
1 cup fresh basil
1/3 cup pine nuts (you can substitute walnuts if necessary)
1 clove garlic, peeled
pinch salt
pinch pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil

Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic clove, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Secure the lid and turn the food processor on until the mixture is uniformly sized. Add the grated Parmesan to the mixture, and pour the olive oil through the open slot in the top of the food processor. Pulse until everything is just combined. Serve on top of your pasta.
Note: You can skip grating the Parmesan and allow the food processor to chop it along with the basil and pine nut mixture.


Amy's Mom said...

Looks so yummy I had to order gnocchi at dinner last night!

Waz said...

Wow, that's a blast from the past. Glad you enjoyed it - by coincidence, I am making gnocchi this week.
All the best,
Waz from Crash Test Kitchen