I loved playing with Silly Putty and Play-Doh growing up — kneading, rolling and forming those colorful bouncy doughs into strange, obscure shapes. I then moved up to fiddling with Fimo clay as a teenager, turning those polyester clays into jewelry pieces. I guess I never got over the love for mushing and mixing things, which explains why I am, now in my 30s, obsessed with the art of cooking and baking.
I also love performing mindless, repetitive tasks (MRT) alas chopping vegetables, knitting, and even running (afterall, running is just putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again, isn’t it?). I find these activities that allow me to submerge into my own little world where nothing negative exists very therapeutic (until, of course, you cut your finger with a knife, or tangle the ball of yarn, or bonk… then it’s a whole different story).
After weeks of travel, I really missed doing something creative and my body desperately wanted to “create” and “make” something with my own two hands. After strolling down the aisles at Trader’s Joe’s for inspiration, I decided on making potato gnocchi for dinner which seemed liked a perfect combination of my favorite childhood activity and a much-needed MRT.
I searched online for some good gnocchi recipes, but all the ones I found served 10 or more, which was way too much, so I jot down the main ingredients (boiled potatoes, flour and eggs) and decided to improvize – a gutsy move, I know, for my first attempt in making these little Italian dumplings.
Potato Gnocchi (serves 4)
(Disclaimer: As in all recipes on this site, this is not really an instruction on how to make gnocchi. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing here. It’s merely a recount of my experience so please, use with caution.)
4 large Russet potatoes
1 cup flour (and more for dusting)
1 pinch salt
① Boil potatoes until fork tender. Peel the skin while hot, and run them through the food mill. I didn’t have the food mill so I just mashed the potatoes with a fork and ran them through one of those vegetable colanders. Ghetto, I know, but it worked!
② Place the mashed potatoes onto a floured wooden cutting board (or any work surface). Make a well in the middle and pour flour and egg.
③ Mix the flour and egg together. Once mixed, incorporate the mixture with the mashed potatoes.
④ Knead well for about 5 minutes until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
⑤ Many “proper” recipes require you to roll the mixture into a log and cut the pieces off with a knife, but I just picked a small amount directly from the potato dough and rolled it in my hands to form a little, edible piece.
⑥ Put a little dent in the center of the dumplings by pressing a fork onto each piece. This step may sound boring but it’s worth it in the end, when you’re able to scoop the delicious sauce! Place each dumpling on a floured baking pan until ready to cook.
⑦ Cook the gnocchi in boiling water, just as you would with pasta. When the pieces float to the top (about a minute or so, depending on the size), remove them from hot water, and move them into a bowl of ice-cold water to “shock” them. This stops the cooking process immediately, preventing them from getting soft and mushy.
⑧ Toss them in olive oil until ready to cook.
After debating how I should prepare the gnocchi, I decided to go with my quick, easy, fool-proof pink sauce recipe (it’s like the vodka sauce but with no vodka).
Pink Sauce (serves 4)
1/2 pint of Half and Half (add more, depending on how thick you want the sauce to be)
2 cups of uncooked spinach
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 twigs of rosemary
3 twigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
① Sautee chopped garlic and onion with olive oil on low heat, until they are clear and tender. Add finely chopped rosemary and thyme. (The kitchen would be smelling absolutely divine at this point!)
② Turn up the heat to medium, add spinach and cook until wilted and tender.
③ Pour the half and half and whisk in the tomato paste, making sure that the paste is well incorporated into the liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.
④ Add the cooked gnocchi and toss, and make sure to be careful when tossing, as you don’t want to break any dumplings.
The dish came out fairly well, much better than I expected for a first timer. The texture of gnocchi was perfect — not too flour-y, not too starchy. I served the dish with a simple salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and prosciutto ham, and a glass of Chianti.
I’m happy to be home and back making a mess in my playground (aka the kitchen) 🙂