Happy Thursday! Given that I don't have to go to school because it's Good Friday tomorrow (and my 16th birthday! Yay!), it feels like a Friday, and what better way to celebrate this Friday-feeling than a big bowl of rich, comforting, indulgent pasta - gnocchi, no less?
The first time I heard of gnocchi, was on Masterchef New Zealand. It was the first challenge; the judges said "show us what you're made of" and one contestant decided that, if nothing else, he would make potato gnocchi. Throughout the one hour challenge, the judges kept insisting how difficult it was to make gnocchi light and fluffy, and not dense or mushy. 'There's a fine line', they implied. Judgement time came, the contestant presented his (slightly rushed) gnocchi, and, poker faces in check, the judges tasted the dish. They loved it! One judge told the wanna-be chef "I had doubts, but you pulled it off".
I was astounded. Throughout the challenge, I watched this contestant rush around his station, appearing flustered and stressed,while the judges rabbited on about how difficult it is, only to produce a meal that they not only liked, but were impressed by? Following watching that episode, I put gnocchi in the "far too complicated and difficult for my level of cooking" basket and promptly run to my cupcake tray to whip something up that I not only enjoyed, but knew almost back to front. Unlike gnocchi. Which I hadn't even tasted yet.
That was quite a few years ago, now. I was given Seasons, a cookbook by Donna Hay, for Christmas and was inspired by the beautiful photograph of a pot full of creamy pieces of the pasta, offset by the deep green of mint leaves and lovingly sprinkled with a generous amount of parmesan. That, and the word "cheat" in the title. All those worries of gnocchi being this forever-unreachable holy grail of culinary excellence faded, and hunger took its place.
The reason that this is called 'cheat's' gnocchi is because it uses plain flour, instead of potatoes, so the 'delicate balance' of "light as air" pasta is seemingly easier to achieve, and make. However, given that this was my first time making, let alone eating, gnocchi, I had some minor hiccups. It happens. First, the recipe calls for frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained, but I used fresh. The initial result was a mixture more fitting for a quiche than pasta. No problem! I just gradually worked HEAPS more flour into the dough while I was cutting and shaping it on my bench until it was no longer sticky. Hiccup number two: the cooking process. This took me a little while to master, initially boiling the water too rapidly and coming up with gobs of half cooked pasta, even though, in my eyes at least, it had already 'floated to the surface'. After testing a few, I figured that lowering the heat just slightly to let the gnocchi cook all the way through, and testing for firmness as each piece came out, rewarded me with much better results. Dressed in a super easy cream sauce, this dish is not too daunting after all. Bon appetite!
Cheat's ricotta, spinach and mint gnocchi
2½ cups (500g) ricotta
½ cup (40g) finely grated parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (150g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
250g frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup (160g) semolina
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
½ cup (40g) finely grated parmesan, extra
½ cup mint leaves, extra
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Place the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, flour, lemon rind, mint and spinach in a bowl and mix well to combine. Turn out onto a surface sprinkled with semolina and roll into four 30cm-long ropes. Cut into 2cm lengths. Cook the gnocchi, in batches, in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
Place the cream in a large frying pan over high heat and cook for 1-2 minutes or until warmed through. Add the gnocchi, extra parmesan, extra mint, sea salt and pepper and toss to coat.
How did you go with this recipe? Are there any dishes that you are too scared to make?
Till next time,