Creamy Pasta Sauce and Homemade Gnocchi

I love gnocchi. It was one of my favorite dishes to order at restaurants when I lived in Italy because it is just one of those things that the Italians do  better than anyone else. The two words most used to describe gnocchi are “plump” and “pillowy.” Really there isn’t too much else to say, besides “delicious!”

I have Giada’s Everyday Pasta Cookbook and as I was paging through it in the cold winter months, looking for a comforting pasta dish, I discovered her gnocchi recipe. It didn’t look too hard. Now she had paired it with a thyme butter sauce, which is traditional, but I wanted to use tomato based sauce, so I ignored all her directions concerning anything but the basic pasta.

The first time I made it, it wasn’t bad, but I had gotten impatient with the potatoes cooking (Yes! Gnocchi is made from potatoes!) and so the dough had bits of potato in it that were not cooked all the way tender. Pillowy did not describe this pasta. I was not discouraged however and made the pasta a second time a couple of weeks later, microwaving the potatoes before putting them in the oven to give them a head start. This time the pasta was delicious! It did not have quite the same je ne sais quoi of the gnocchi I ate in Italia, but it was closer than any of the pre-made gnocchi I had bought in the grocery store here in America. Besides, whenever I mixed the dough, rolled out the pasta ropes and cut them into little pillows, it made me think of the cooking lessons that Silvia, our pensione caretaker, gave us…and perhaps that, more than anything, is what makes them taste so good.

Here is Giada’s recipe as modified by me:

2 baking potatoes, such as russets (about 12 ounces each)

1 egg lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Bake potatoes in oven until tender (Poke holes first please or potato explosion will be imminent). If impatient microwave on high at 4 minute intervals for 12 minutes and finish in the oven until tender. While potatoes are still warm, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Throw away the skin (This means you don’t have the wash them in the first place. YAY!). Mash the potatoes well. Stir in egg, salt, and pepper. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and stir just until blended.

Get a handful of dough and roll it between your hands until it becomes a 1/2 inch diameter rope (just like you did with Play-do!). Cut the rope into  1 inch pieces. You can lightly press fork tines into the top of each gnocchi pillow if desired as it is claimed that this helps the pasta hold onto the sauce. As I like to pour on the sauce so that I can mop it up with a piece of bread, I don’t bother.

Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until they have all risen to the surface, about 3 minutes. Scoop the gnocchi into a colander with a slotted spoon. You may have to work in batches depending on size of your pot. Transfer gnocchi to pot with heated pasta sauce. Mix gnocchi in until well coated. Eat!

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