Given these time gobblers, you'd think I'd focus my efforts on them... but here I sit, snuggled with the cats on a Sunday morning, wanting nothing more than to tell you all about my deep history with gnocchi. This is a combination of an intense instructional session with my mother and Nonna while I was home for the holidays, followed by my own solo attempts back in the 'Peg. This will truly be a post in pictures... enjoy!!
|Mom, still hard at work with the meat, with my "liddle brudder" Al in the background. In internet circles, this is what's commonly known as "photobombing". And you thought you'd only learn food-related tidbits here...|
|Alright, the sauce is happily bubbling away, with lots of crushed tomatoes, the meatballs and sausages, and a carrot cut into wedges (part of the secret! It helps sweeten the sauce). Now onto the gnocchi dough!! About one potato per person, boiled until cooked through, then peeled and thoroughly mashed (traditionally we use a potato ricer). Add to that about one egg for every six potatoes (I think we were making 12 servings here...), and about 1/2 cup of cake and pastry flour per person (add more as needed to form a light dough that's just a little bit sticky/tacky still). Knead well.|
|Needing to knead. I know, terrible pun. I'm my father's daughter, what can I say??|
|Don't they look awesome?! And so old-world, with that pot and glass of wine next to them...|
|MEATBALLS. Done. They've been steeped in the delicious sauce, exchanging flavours, for a few hours now.|
|Sauce, sans meat products, reducing down a bit more. Looks good, doesn't it?? The little flecks in it are bits of meat from particularly tender sausages/meatballs that sort of disintegrated into the tomato goodness.|
|Cooking off the gnocchi... they're such cute little floating dumplings!!!|
|The finished product, in an absolutely enormous pasta bowl, sprinkled over with Parmesan cheese (or was it Romano? I can't remember. Whatever it was, it was good).|
|Gratuitous close-up... tender little potato pasta dumplings, fresh, light-tasting tomato sauce, and savoury meatballs. What more could you want??|
|Ah yes! THIS is what's missing. An amazing family to share the meal with. From bottom right: Papa, Sar (purposely hiding because she was feeling sick and pale), my BFF Kiks, Nonna, Ma, and Hubs :D That empty spot is for me!|
Having suffered these past failures, however, has given me even more drive to start improving (eventually perfecting?) my gnocchi and meatballs. My goal is to reach a Nonna-level of expertise... let's call that a gnocchi PhD. My mom has most definitely achieved her Master of Gnocchi degree, and is just a hair's breadth away from graduating with her doctorate. I, however, have only a measly Bachelors of Gnocchi. Time to hit the "books"... or forks, as the case may be. I am bound and determined to one day be an adorable little Nonna, making perfect gnocchi for my grandchildren (though I think I've yet to meet a Nonna who stands 5'9"... maybe I'll shrink). Better start practicing!
The following are from my gnocchi attempt earlier this month, as a big thank-you to Jess for breaking out her tailor's tools and measuring me for my wedding dress. There's still room for improvement, but it was by FAR the best attempt I've made so far. I'd better just keep at it!
|This may be my favourite picture of 2011 so far. I've set it as my desktop picture, no word of a lie. I adore how my south-facing sliding doors let in the natural sunlight on a Sunday morning...|
|Rolled gnocchi, basking in the sun. I don't have a potato ricer, so I had to make do with a masher and an immersion blender... I think I did a thorough-enough job, though.|
|Analogous to the large bowl of tossed pasta and accompanying meatballs on the side. I forgot to sprinkle with cheese, though.|
|The whole shebang. Don't worry, I was measured for my dress BEFORE tucking into this "feastival", as dad would say.|
My only other complaint about this attempt? I was, in hindsight, rapidly coming down with a cold while preparing and eating this meal. I had to have Jess taste the sauce for me, to ensure that it was nicely seasoned and balanced before tossing it with the noodles. All that work, just to be thwarted by impaired taste buds... disappointing. Yet another point in favour of attempting these again, and soon.
I'll leave you with one last interesting tidbit: I had no idea, until my laagm (loving aunt and godmother) sent me a Wall Street Journal article, that gnocchi was so popular in South America. There, it's called "ñoquis", and they have a whole set of folklore surrounding it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this food writer's battle to make the perfect ñoquis for her husband- I hope you enjoy it, too!
With visions of potato dumplings dancing in my head, I remain,