I am blessed to be able to say that there have been a few times in my life where I have felt like I was in paradise. Santorini was one of those places. It is probably one of the only cities in the world where you actually feel like you are walking in a dreamland. I captured some of my greatest photographs there, but Santorini was also the place where I found the best gnocchi dish I have ever had. Seated inches from the pebble strewn beach and the crashing clear water, this little bistro blew my mind! It was simple, gnocchi with a tomato sauce and lots of basil, and you know simple is always my thing.
A few experiences have come along since then that could have tried to challenge that night’s dinner. A close competitor was the gnocchi dish I ordered at this little bistro in New York City. But, I am not always in paradise and I am certainly not always traveling. So, when my feet are firmly planted on the Main Line, some of the best can be found at Teresa’s Cafe in Wayne, PA where I would recommend their Gnocchi Sorrentino, or even try asking for Gnocchi alla Bolognese.
What is it about gnocchi that makes it so unforgettable? This post is dedicated to a man in my life that reminded me of just how memorable homemade gnocchi can be…. thanks kid.
Gnocchi is the Mr. Independent of pastas. It’s consistency, size, weight, flavor, and sheer decadence are unmatched by any other type of pasta. If someone wants Gnocchi Sorrentino, it’s not like you can just throw some angel hair into the dish and it will taste the same. Whether the gnocchi are made from potato or from a dough combination, they are like little pillows of perfection in any dish you put them in. All it takes is one bite into one of the little nibs and you will be their biggest fan just like me.
That being said, one of the greatest qualities about gnocchi is that it is a specialty. It is not like you can grab a box of Barilla brand gnocchi when it is on sale for a dollar at your local grocery store. If that doesn’t make them one of a kind and unforgettable, I am not sure what will!
In the March 2011 Food and Wine Magazine I found a recipe for dough based gnocchi that I have been dying to make for the last few weeks…
Well, last night I finally got a chance to do it!
Not only did these gnocchi taste fabulous, but they were actually really fun and easy to make. The recipe in F&W came from Chef Michael Symon who is one of my favorites right now. One of the first aspects of the recipe that caught my eye was his use of lemon zest. In the recipe I wrote up, I halfed the quantity of zest, but I like his idea to just add that touch of something different when you bite into each nibble.
I like to get all my ingredients together before I start cooking. Emeril Lagasse did it when I would sit transfixed in front of my television watching his show as a little girl, so I guess I can say that I learned that tip from the best!
This is a one bowl mess, with the dough coming together using your hands or a wooden spoon! It can be kind of sticky, but as long as your surface is well floured, you will have no problem hand rolling it into the ropes…
I decided to not only make the traditional gnocchi last night, but I also switched up the recipe and used whole wheat flour for the second batch. In my household we almost always use whole grain pastas so it is just something that I have become accustomed to. If you like the taste like I do, they turned out great!
Before cutting the gnocchi they do need to sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to rest. While they are resting it is a great time to get together any ingredients you need to put a sauce together. Last night I put together two different sauces to demonstrate two great flavor combinations for each type of gnocchi.
With the whole wheat gnocchi, I made a lemon sauce and ended up throwing in some chicken that I had just taken off the grill.
The sauce is almost the same as that from my velvety lemon chicken recipe, just a bit different portion wise. It is so quick to put together, and if you love the taste of lemon as much as I do, I think you would love how it coats each bite that your fork digs into.
Making a roux is the first step to the this sauce, and that is done using butter and flour. I like to use soy butter and whole grain flour … but you can use any kind of salted butter and all purpose flour. Start this as the gnocchi begin popping to the top of the boiling water because this sauce comes together fast.
The way the roux get its hands on every flavor and thickens the sauce is the best. Depending on how thick you want your sauce depends on your portion of flour to butter… The grilled chicken is just that added bit of amazing to the dish, and of course so is the parsley. I adore what parsley does to finish off any dish…
For the traditional gnocchi comes the piece de resistance, my take on Gnocchi Sorrentino.
This is a great way to use a left over tomato sauce that you have in your refrigerator, or of course take the time to put together my easy tomato sauce. What makes it Sorrentino and not just tomato sauce and cheese, is the way the fresh mozzarella melts and twists its way throughout the dish.
To start you actually want to saute your cooked gnocchi in a bit of butter or olive oil before adding any of the sauce. This will crisp them up just a bit.
All it takes is a big spoon, and a lot of delicious sauce to complete this dish … oh and tossing in the amazing mozzarella of course.
In an effort to not destroy the entire kitchen last night, I simplified things and used my dad’s left over homemade bolognese sauce… But like I said my go to recipe for sauce is available in the printed recipe I provided for you! Dad won’t disclose the way he makes his sauce to me just yet, but maybe if enough people ask for it I will be able to share it on here?
Not only would I make these little gems again, but if I wasn’t going to an event tonight, I would do it tonight just to try them with a different sauce combination. The ricotta cheese in the recipe is definitely what makes it. Sometimes gnocchi can have that oops I spilled the flour, doughy consistency but not with these little guys. Maybe I have fallen in love just a little bit more than I did with my dish in Greece? Maybe.
So as I say with every Italian dish I share with you all, Mangia!!!! Enjoy!