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Gnocchi e Polpette con Salsa di Pomodoro

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 17 April 2011 at 16:58

From Wiki -

Quote Gnocchi (pronounced "nyokee;" singular gnocco) are various thick, soft dumplings. They may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, potato, bread crumbs, or similar ingredients. The smaller forms are called gnocchetti.

Gnocchi are eaten as entrées (primi piatti), alternatives to soups (minestre), or pasta. They are widely available dried, frozen, or fresh in vacuum sealed packages in supermarkets and specialty stores. Classic accompaniments of gnocchi include tomato sauces, pesto, and melted butter (sometimes fried butter) with cheese.

While they are often available frozen in specialty grocers, they are typically homemade in Italian and Italian-American households.

Wiki goes on to provide some historical background:

Quote The word gnocchi may derive from the Italian word nocchio, meaning a knot in wood, or from nocca (meaning knuckle). It has been a traditional Italian pasta type of probably Middle Eastern origin since Roman times. It was introduced by the Roman Legions during the enormous expansion of the empire into the countries of the European continent. In the past 2,000 years, each country developed its own specific type of small dumplings, with the ancient gnocchi as their common ancestor. In Roman times, gnocchi were made from a semolina porridge-like dough mixed with eggs, and are still found in similar forms today, particularly Sardinia's malloreddus (although they do not contain eggs).

I found this to be very interesting, especially considering my recent experience with halušky. Wiki explains that, considering the origins going back to the Roman times, the potato as an ingredient in gnocchi is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the introduction of the New World tuber in the 1500s. Being cheap and abundant, potatoes made a very convenient ingredient and remain a popular component throughout Italy, especially in the central region.

Quote One [regional] variety, gnocchi di pane (literally "bread lumps"), is made from bread crumbs and is popular in Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. Another variety from the latter region is spinach gnocchi....The name is also used in France in the dish known as "gnocchis à la parisienne", a hot dish comprising gnocchi formed of choux pastry, and served with Béchamel sauce.

I am basing this preparation (with a few small variations) on a recipe from a famous Italian chef, Lydia Bastianich, who has a GREAT cooking show on Italian peasant food called "Cooking With Lydia." I was "introduced" to her by John Rivera; Here's some information on her that he provided:

Quote Lydia Bastianich was born and raised in Istria, on the border between Italy and Yugoslavia. She came to the US as an adult and became a chef at Felidia's in New York City.
 
Every Sunday growing up, she says, the whole family would sit around the table and make gnocchi for supper.
 
Jeff Smith interviewed her for his cookbook "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian;" He asked her if they, as kids, got bored on Sunday afternoons doing this.
 
"Not so," she says, "because handmade gnocchi is so delicous that we looked forward to the meal. Besides if we each didn't roll enough dumplings, we wouldn't have enough to eat at the table!"

Here is the ingredients list for Lydia's recipe:

Quote 6 Large Idaho or Russet potatoes
2 TBSP plus 1 TSP salt
Ground white pepper
2 eggs beaten
4 cups unbleached flour
Grated Parmigiano for serving

And the method:

Quote Boil potatoes in their skins about 40 min. When cool, peel and rice the potatoes. Spread the riced potatoes completely over a large area to cool entirely, and release moisture. The more surface area the better.
 
Gather cold potatoes into a mound, form a well in the center. stir 1 TSP salt, white pepper into eggs and beat well, then pour into  the well. work the potatoes and eggs with your hands, gradually adding 3 cups flour. Shouldn't take more than 10 minutes, any longer and the dough starts to become real heavy.
 
Use the remaining 1 cup flour for dusting etc.
 
Cut dough into 6 equal parts, then roll each part into a  rope, 1/2 inch thick and then cut into pieces at 1/2 inch intervals. Indent each piece with your thumb, or use the tines of a fork to make a ribbed effect. This helps hold the sauce onto them on the plate.

From here. they are boiled just like halušky. I will be serving these gnocchi in a tomato-based sauce with meatballs, which are beef versions made from Andy's awesome recipe.

This is already started, so we'll see how it goes!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 April 2011 at 17:27
Oh gawd, really looking forward to this deliciousness! I'm counting on you for good pictures to complement your wonderful research......Mangia!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MomInAnApron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 April 2011 at 09:17
LOVE gnocchi! Cannot wait to see this!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 April 2011 at 12:47
alright, debbie, you have waited long enough! Wink 
 
john, i hope this lives up to expectations!
 
i've got a lot of step-by-step here, so you all can see how it's done. this was my first ever attempt at gnocchi - being from the middle of nowhere i had only heard about it and had never even eaten gnocchi, so i am sure that it isn't perfect, but it was fun and easy, and i am sure it is close to someone's gnocchi somewhere....
 
i know that there is a "battle" going on over whether pasta orginated in italy or in china, but the more i think about it gnocchi's roman origins, and the more i remember how the roman empire spread across europe, bringing gnocchi to its far-flung territories in eastern europe, the more i tend to think that pasta either originated in italy or, more likely, the idea of pasta and noodles originated independently in both regions. it seems to me that gnocchi is just an earlier form of pasta that has survived down through the ages, and in fact, some homemade pasta recipes, where ingredients are concerned, differ very little from gnocchi. by the time you have read this, we'll see if you agree.
 
here are the goods -
 
 
some necessary substitutions due to availibility at the time: i only had black pepper and red potatoes, rather than white pepper and brown russets. I don't think this made much difference at all, except the pepper was of course visible in the finished product. as for the potatoes, red ones didn't seem to hurt any; in fact, according to Wiki, they are preferred; and i do like the bold flavour that they have - so no worries. also, we usually have unbleached flour around, but not this time - so i used bleached. once again, not really a big deal.
 
for the record, i have no idea why i included the olive oil in the picture, as it is not needed to make gnocchi by itself! those who know me know that i am half-north-dakotan, and i guess that is reason enough! Embarrassed
 
first order of business was to get the potatoes boiling while i baked the meatballs, which i had rolled the night before, and prepared the sauce:
 
 
this recipe was unique from other recipes i have made incorporating mashed potato as a component, in that it advised boiling the potatoes whole, skin on. previously, i had always peeled and then cut the potatoes into quarters, 6ths or 8ths, depending on the size of the potato or what i was doing with it.
 
after boiling for 40 minutes, i set the potatoes to drain, dry and cool a bit:
 
 
as you can see, the skins did some splitting in some places, and this allowed them to be peeled fairly easily:
 
 
this method worked pretty well, and had one advantage in that i am not the best potato peeler in the world, so we were able to get all of the potato:
 
 
the disadvantage is that they have to be boiled 40 minutes rather than the usual 15 or so; however, when you take into account the time involved in peeling a lot of potatoes, then cutting them, i am guessing that we broke even.
 
next, as with the halušky, you want to rice the potatoes or, if you are like us and can't afford 12 dollars for a ricer, simply mash them with a fork:
 
 
you want to be very thorough, stirring them around off the bottom and sides of the bowl in order to make sure you that mash all of the potatoes completely:
 
 
following the recipe, i then spread out the mashed potatoes on our cutting board in order to cool and also to dry out a little:
 
 
in order to increase the surface area for cooling and drying, i pressed down my fingers into the mash - it seemed to work pretty well, and made up quite a bit for the limited space that i had:
 
 
meanwhile, i took the meatballs out of the oven to cool a little, and sauteed an onion and some garlic in order to jazz up my plain-jane store-bought jars of ragu.
 
then, i got a big pot of water boiling, adding a little salt to season it:
 
 
and turned my attention to the making of the gnocchi. for the first step, i mixed together 2 eggs and some black pepper:
 
 
since i forgot to add the salt to the eggs, i simply tossed it on the potatoes and then made a well in them with a measuring cup. then i poured the egg mixture into the well:
 
 
then, starting in the centre, i stirred with the fork out into the mashed potatoes, incorporating the egg into the potato thoroughly:
 
 
i then added one cup of flour:
 
 
and worked it into the mixture to a consistency resembling this:
 
 
then, i added the rest of the flour (2 cups):
 
 
and we worked it in until we had a stiff dough that was just a little on the dry side. you do not want to handle the dough too much, but enough to get it like this:
 
 
as you can see, you want a firm dough that will not spring back much or be too elastic:
 
 
now comes the fun part - cut the dough into six equal portions:
 
 
and shape them into balls, orbs, globes, spheres - pick your geometric term:
 
 
take one and start rolling it out on a lightly-floured surface with lightly-floured hands:
 
 
we quickly saw that the cutting board wasn't going to "cut it" where work area was concerned, so we moved the operation onto the table-top:
 
 
and kept rolling until we had a very long tube/cylinder/roll (pick your geometric term) of dough:
 
 
this actually wasn't quite long enough, as you want the dough to be half an inch in diameter, and this was just a little bigger than that, but close enough for a bunch of non-italians in montana. i doubt some little old nonna in the tuscan mountains has a ruler to measure her gnocchi with; and if she does, i doubt that it is in inches, so this was good.
 
next, we cut the gnocchi from the dough, using the back-side of a knife blade to spare the tablecloth:
 
 
and laid them out of the cutting board, which managed to hold a batch at a time (total of 6 batches):
 
 
most of you who have seen gnocchi have seen it with little grooves made by a fork or a special device for that purpose. i am not quite up to that level yet, so i worked out an interesting substitute. i lightly floured my middle- and index- fingertips and lightly pressed them into the gnocchi, rocking them forward and backward a bit to round them on one side and dimple them on the other:
 
 
the ones in the pictures aren't the best examples of what i did, but they are close. my 8-year-old was helping me with this, and he tended to be heavy-handed, so a lot of them got squashed anyway, but that's ok. once again, i doubt that the peasants in rural italy are going to sic the gnocchi police on us!
 
it was at about this point, after the egg, the mixing, the kneading, the rolling and the cutting - and right before we started putting the gnocchi in boiling water, that i got to thinking that gnocchi, which originally was made exclusively with grains such as semolina and wheat rather than using potato, must have been the ur-pasta, which was subsequently refined over the centuries with different varieties evolved for different applications. maybe i'm wrong, maybe not - but i can say that i am glad that gnocchi migrated throughout the roman empire and became a staple throughout europe, including the ancestral lands of my wife and myself - how else would we know Spätzle and halušky?
 
anyway, back to the gnocchi! the water was boiling steadily, so i dropped a bunch in:
 
 
and of course when they were done, they promptly floated to the surface:
 
 
to be skimmed off and put in a strainer until all were done:
 
 
i repeated this procedure throughout the six "batches" that derived from the six balls of dough i had made. this made quite a bit of gnocchi and was just enough to feed all seven in the household, including our houseguest.
 
by now, the meatballs were simmering in the bubbling red sauce. it was simply a jarred sauce from ragu - nothing special - to which i had added oregano, basil and some black pepper, along with the sauteed onion and garlic - not perfect, but it was ok:
 
 
right before actually serving the gnocchi, i took the strainer that they were all in and dropped them all back in the boiling water, just for a moment or two, to fluff up a little:
 
 
this step was not necessary with the halušky, as they were subsequently fried with the cabbage, onions and bacon; but with this dish, it seemed like the right thing to do. once they were all fluffy again, i portioned them out next to some meatballs:
 
 
and covered them with some of the sauce:
 
 
and then served them topped with some grated parmesan cheese:
 
 
not too bad at all for a first attempt!
 
this was an immediate hit with everyone in the household, and we were all impressed with the goodness in the gnocchi themselves, which was enhanced by andy's excellent meatballs and the "improved" jarred sauce:
 
 
the gnocchi were light, fluffy and feathery in texture and had a very good, potato flavour that came from the use of the red potatoes, which are more rustic and bold in taste than the milder russets, in my opinion. all in all, it was a very good meal that was worth the modest amount of effort:
 
 
thanks for taking the time to look, and i hope that you give this truly historic recipe a try. the great thing about gnocchi is that you can use any sauce at all that you want - tomato, alfredo, pesto, or a dozen others, or you can put them in soups as dumplings, or you can simply toss them with a little butter or olive oil. the varieties are endless and the preparation is simple, so no reason not to try ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SavageShooter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2011 at 13:55
That looks amazing...Question:  You think the dough can be frozen for future use?  Also, what are your thoughts about adding garlic into the mixture?  I'm thinking with Italian dishes, you really can't have too much Garlic.  At least that's what my Grandma Amarose would say!  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2011 at 13:57
yep, freezing the dough should be no trouble at all. i can't imagine any way that it would cause a problem. same with the garlic! either crushed/minced form or in powdered form, it should be a fine addition to the dough - your grandma is a wise woman!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SavageShooter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2011 at 14:09
I'm thinking that I'll give this a shot and then freeze the dough so when I want it again, it's as simple as boiling water and adding the dough!  Love it & Thanks,
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2011 at 14:14
fresh is always best, but freezing beforehand would be convenient and i can't see any problems with it. as with freezing anything, use freezer-wrap or a ziplock freezer bag, or similar air-tight container, and remove all air possible, so as to avoid freezer burn due to loss of moisture.
 
this is just a suggestion, since i haven't tried it, but it might even be a good idea to wrap in plastic wrap tightly for added protection before using whatever (heavy-duty ziplock, tupperware or vacuum seal). as far as i can tell, it should be as fresh as the day it was made ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2011 at 15:02
I don't know how I missed this post originally Ron....but great job!

the gnocci look wonderful...you just added another dish to my to-do listThumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 March 2012 at 09:46
 
Ron,
 
Happy 21st and one would never believe, it is the coldest day we have had this March, as it was up to 60s Farenheit --- it is 32 or so farenheit today. Cold cold ...
I just had a late lunch, and looking at these Potato Gnocchi with those divine meatballs, just reactivates my appetite, so I am off for a walk !!!  Ron,  Looks delicious ... our preparation of the recipe is quite similar --- the well in centre and all ...
 
Have nice evening, Ciao.
Margi.
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 March 2012 at 09:50
Ron,
 
Sorry, I just realised that Chef Lydia works or had worked at a NYC Manhattan Restaurant called Felidia´s ... She is a wonderful Italian artisan ... She has to be in her 60s -70s now ... Yes ?
 
Small world. I had eaten at Felidia´s many times over the years ...
 
Margi.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 March 2012 at 09:50
thank you, margi ~ i was hoping that these would meet with your approval. they were my first attempt, so as such they were certainly not perfect, but they were indeed delicious!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 March 2012 at 09:55
Delicious on 1st try deserves an excellent ... Imagine, flunking on 1st try ?
 
ha ha ...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 March 2012 at 11:22
Ron,
 
Rolling them on a fork is no harder than indenting with your fingers. In fact, as you no doubt realized, the whole "gee it's really hard" thing about gnocchi is much overblown. The whole trick, really, is to keep the flour content as low as possible.
 
I would love a gnocchi board. But I make them too infrequently to justify having one. Instead I use the fork method. What you need is a long, thin-tined fork, rather than a more modern stylized one. Take each of the gnocchi and gently roll into a ball. Then roll it over the backside of the fork, pressing gently. You'll wind up with a series of parallel lines indented in the dough.
 
You might mess up a few until you develop the feel. But once you do (and it really is a fast learning curve) it'll work just fine.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 March 2012 at 11:35
next time i make gnocchi, i'll definitely give it a try ~ thanks for the clarification, because in my mind's eye i have always pictured the procedure nearly backwards from the way you describe, and that might account for my failures! Shocked
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I think most of us who learn it from verbal descriptions initially do it wrong, Ron. When I first tried it, for example, I was pressing the fork into the gnocchi; which merely flattened them. Then I tried pressing the gnocchi into the fork, but using the underside.
 
First time I saw somebody use a gnocchi board a lightbulb went off, and I started rolling them on the back of the fork, which simulates the board.
 
What I'm saying is that we all have more than our share of , "well, that didn't work" moments. The trick is to try and learn from them.
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