I walked into this cooking class at Sur La Table in King of Prussia, PA and I was surrounded by people who either owned restaurants or were home cooks just like me. We wanted to learn the basics of how to make this dish and how to make it taste light, not weighed down. What did I learn?
Since I can’t publish Sur La Table’s recipes from the cooking class, you can always find basic recipes online, but I will show you pictures of the ingredients and tell you everything that I learned. When I’d try gnocchi, sometimes it was light, filling with each bite. Other times, it was heavy, chewy and hard to finish. What is the secret to making it light? When I made pasta in the past, it seemed as if you could never work the dough enough. It always seemed too soft, so I had to keep working it until I felt the resistance. Gnocchi is a little different. You want the dough to have a shape to it and some resistance to it, but make sure it is still soft. You don’t need that tougher consistency that you need with fresh pasta. As you put the ingredients together and work the dough with your hands, roll it into a ball. If you tough the dough with the tips of your fingers, if your fingerprint stays, then you are done. It’s soft and ready to cut. Roll your dough out with your hands into two snake shaped pieces. Make sure it is about 1-1 1/2 inches thick or so, then start to cut it in “inch” thick pillows.
Now…it’s time for the fun part. You can use a fork if you don’t have a gnocchi board, but this is the step that makes the sauce stick to the gnocchi pieces. If you have a gnocchi board, take the gnocchi and place it on the board. Make sure the cut sides are facing to your left and right, so the middle part is the only part you touch. It “gums” up the board otherwise. Take the wooden stick, place it gently on top of the gnocchi pillow and drag it across the board away from you, which creates those “sauce hugging” lines in the piece. The other thing it does is it creates a “comma” like shape of the bottom of the gnocchi, which allows more sauce to get trapped underneath this light, lovely bite of pasta.
Sauces that go well with gnocchi are so versatile. We created a meaty sauce to go well with the light potato gnocchi, then a nutty, herbaceous sauce to go with the spinach gnudi …and with the leftover potato gnocchi, we added a flavorful tomato butter sauce. The hazelnut added so much depth to the dish. The lovely part about pesto is that you can add any flavorful green herb and any nut that creates a mouth watering sensation and then you mix it together with the parmesan cheese. To make pesto, I’ve used kale, parsley, mint, basil, sage…the list goes on. One time, I ran out of pine nuts and the store I was in didn’t have any left, so I used almonds and it was fantastic! Pesto is packed with protein and full of bold flavors.
What is the difference between gnocchi and gnudi? In gnocchi, we use potato for our base ingredient and with gnudi, we replace that with ricotta. Both dishes are light and fluffy and the lines and “comma like bottoms” created by the rolling of the pasta, capture the sauce and it is such a comforting meal that will love your tummy during a particularly chilly night. Color your takeout with love! <3