Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Baked Gnocchi

As far as meals go, this one is sublime. Ridiculously simple, considering the homemade potato-pasta and sauce; so delicious that the boys each ate an entire plateful (and you probably all know how notoriously difficult toddlers are to feed); and so beautiful and impressive that you could serve it to guests at a dinner party.

The recipe is in three parts: Making the gnocchi, Making the sauce, Mixing it together and baking it (with lotsa cheese). The gnocchi could easily be eaten any other way and is easy, basic gnocchi. Only ingredients you have on hand, no fancy cheeses or roasted squashes.
The sauce, too, is insanely basic and takes less than 8 minutes to whip up. Use it as pizza sauce, mix it into your spaghetti sauce, eat a mugful of it with a spoon (like my children each did while I kneaded bread.)

Read through this recipe BEFORE you start, since (as with all my recipes), it's written by a crazy person and timeline's may not be totally clear.

For the gnocchi:
2 lbs Russet Potatoes (3-4 large, I used 5 smallish potatoes)
1 egg
1 tsp salt
a dash pepper
1 1/4 cup -  1 1/2 cups flour

For the sauce: (makes double what's needed)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion - chopped
4+ cloves of garlic - chopped (depending on taste, I used 6)
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregeno
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
2+ tsp dried basil
salt to taste (1/2 - 1 tsp)
*Admission* I did not measure anything in this sauce and made it up as I went. If you don't love vinegar, add less. If you're all about basil (or have fresh on hand!) add heaps more. No measurements. Make this sauce your own. You can do it without a recipe. I believe in you. 

For when you bake this business:
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
(Add more, less, or different cheese depending on what you have and how much you love cheese.)

To make the gnocchi (do ahead, in the afternoon, or even days before and freeze uncooked):
Bake your potatoes at 400degrees, 40 min- 1hr, until soft when poked with a fork or knife.

After they are cool enough to handle, (10 minutes or so) peel potatoes (I actually did this by scooping out the innards with a spoon). After another few minutes of cooling, mash those babies up good. You can grate them if they've retained their shape enough, use a potato mill (or baby food grinder), or just be deliberate with a fork.

Put all those potato mashings in a bowl with the egg, salt and pepper and mix it together. Add 1/2 cup flour and mix, then another 1/2 cup flour and mix. You'll have to use your hands. I mixed it, much like I would knead flour into bread. When that 1/2 cup is combined, add another 1/4 cup and combine. Add additional flour a tablespoon at a time, as needed. You might not even need it.
When you have a soft, supple dough, not unlike bread dough, that you can roll into a rope- wash your hands and flour your countertop. Split the dough into quarters. Roll out each quarter into a fat rope (3/4 inch thick) and chop into pieces about an inch wide.
Move your little potato-pillows to a baking sheet lined with freezer paper, and stick them in the freezer. (You can freeze them indefinitely, or just keep them in there until your sauce is ready. I like to make these during naptime, and freeze them until dinner. They're a little less fragile when they're frozen.)

I was always really nervous about making gnocchi, because I felt like they should be rolled and made thin and delicate, then creased with a fork or gnocchi board - but these aren't that kind of gnocchi. They're baked into big fluffy pillows, so ridges and tiny bits are silly. You're going to want as much of this in your mouth at a time as you can get, so make the gnocchi big and fat and yummy.

About a half hour before you want to eat, start a big pot of salted water boiling (to cook your noodles), preheat your oven to 350, and begin chopping onions and garlic for sauce:

To make your sauce and bake your gnocchi: 
In a dutch oven / ceramic pot / casserole dish of some kind (or a regular pot, and you can move to a baking dish if you want) add a heap of butter and a splash of olive oil and dump in your chopped onion and garlic.
Cook until it's soft and dreamy, then pour in your spices and salt, etc. Cook another minute or so. Pour in the tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and remove from heat (it doesn't need to warm through yet.)
If your kids are standing anxiously by the stove, hoping to help - give them each a spoon and let them go to town tasting your sauce. My kids each grabbed a mug off the dish-drying rack and scooped out more than a half-cup and sat down and ate it. Sounds good to me.
This makes twice as much sauce as you need, so scoop half of it into an old mason jar, and stick it in the fridge (or in a ziplock in the freezer) for next time. (Trust me, after you taste this, there will be a next time.)

Hopefully your water is boiling now, so dump in your gnocchi (being a bit more gentle if they're not frozen), you might have to do it in two batches. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom of the pot, and float when it's cooked. Scoop the gnocchi from the pot with a slotted spoon as they rise to the top, and put it straight into the dutch oven filled with sauce. Periodically add a little handful of one or the other cheeses, and stir it up.
When all your gnocchi is in the pot, detirmine whether or not you want to add some more of the sauce that you put away, add the rest of your cheese and mix well to coat everything with everything.

Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until hot through, cheese is melted, and pasta is bubbly and poofy.

Photograph it to impress your friends, because after your husband and kids see this mess, there will be none left to see. It will be immediately gone. (Oh, this feeds 4, we did actually have some left. It will be today's lunch.)

(As far as the bread goes, I used a half-recipe of {THIS} bread, but when I was supposed to shape it after letting it rise, I pressed it down and smeared it with butter and freshly sauteed garlic, then rolled and pinched it into a loaf shape. It was pretty divine.

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ritabobita said...

I rarely measure anything in sauces. If they come in a package of some sort, like tomatoes, that is usually the measurement. This looks tasty! Thanks!

Epic Thread said...

Oh my good googly moogly, I'm drooling all over the place!
Jillian - http://epic-thread.blogspot.com

Aimee said...

okay yum! i've been wanting to make gnocchi for a while now. Its on my bucket list http://lmld.org/aimees-cooking-bucket-list-100/, and your recipe doesn't look too hard at all, but looks delicious! So I will definitely be trying this soon!

Jeannie Bruce said...

I am an almost 28 year old long time reader, first time commenter. Love your Blog, Love your Kids, Love your reading choices! Fellow HP Fanatic here!
I made your Gnocchi today and it was Delicious, and not difficult at all! I am trying to make one new thing a week and this was perfect for a Friday in lent for a Practicing Catholic! The only thing is I totally misread the amount of tomatoes as 280 oz instead of 28 and I made a HECK of a lot of Sauce haha, but we now have plenty frozen for next weeks spaghetti. Even the bread was easy peasy, I have never made it from scratch before, and now I cant wait to make it again. Thanks for the recipes!