For beginning pasta makers, gnocchi is a simple choice; there’s no need for a pasta machine, only a fork.
Gnocchi (pronounced nyo-key; translation: lumps) are little pasta dumplings that can be boiled and served, sauced, like you would serve any other pasta. Cooled, they make soft and easy-to-hold bites for toddlers.
Traditionally, gnocchi are made with potato, but sweet potato, squash and pumpkin make more nutrient-dense and flavorful gnocchi; try stirring up a batch next time you need to use up leftovers. Rolling the dough into ropes and shaping it into gnocchi by rolling it on the tines of a fork is a great project to set small hands to work at the kitchen table with.
Simple potato gnocchi
If you like, throw a handful of frozen peas into the water along with the gnocchi.
4 small-medium russet potatoes
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. cream (heavy or half & half)
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Bake the potatoes in a 350°F oven for about an hour, or until tender. (This method keeps them from getting watery, which could happen when you boil them, and also retains more nutrients and potato flavor.) When they are cool enough to handle, peel them and press them through a potato ricer (looks like a giant garlic press – very effective in getting rid of all the lumps) or mash until smooth. Stir in the egg, cream and salt until well-blended, and then stir in the flour. You should have a soft dough – if it’s sticky, add a bit more flour a spoonful or so at a time.
Divide the dough into six chunks, and roll each into a rope that’s about 3/4 inches thick. With a knife or pastry cutter, chop into 3/4-inch pieces. Roll each piece over the tines of a fork (I do this by rolling the back of the fork back and forth over each piece, starting at a cut side so that it grips better), then place them on a lightly floured baking sheet. At this point, the gnocchi can be covered and refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen. (Cook them from frozen – don’t bother thawing first.)
To cook your gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the gnocchi in batches, not crowding the pot, for about four minutes or until they rise to the surface of the water and puff up a bit. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Drizzle with browned butter and/or top with tomato sauce and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
Serves 4 to 6.
Julie is a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. She lives in Calgary with her husband and son, Wilem. Watch for her cooking show, It’s Just Food, with co-host Ned Bell on Access TV and CLT stations across Canada. For more information, visit www.dinnerwithjulie.com.
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