“Mangiando insieme, godiamo la vita”
(By eating, we enjoy life)
Any person who likes to cook or eat (usually a person likes at least one—in my case both!), can relate to the above Italian quote which is commonly used in Italian kitchens worldwide. There’s just something that screams comfort food, family, and fresh flavors when anything Italian hits the table. But in all reality, I haven’t cooked or eaten as many Italian foods as I’d like. And another reason I want to widen my Italian food palate; remember how I teach cooking classes? Well they implemented a new feedback/suggestion program, and one of the requested themes has repeatedly been Italian—brilliant, huh? I love my students!!
So how about I start this goal to get “in touch” more frequently with Italian food by making gnocchi? I’ve eaten it quite a bit, but I’ve never made it completely from scratch. And what better day to do it then on a lazy
snowy Sunday afternoon?
Didn’t think you’d complain!!!
2 lbs whole baking potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
1 1/2 cups flour
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large can of chicken, drained
1 large can of Italian stewed tomatoes, drained
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan, plus more for garnishing
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spear the potatoes with fork tines in several places around each potato to vent moisture as the potatoes cook. Bake the potatoes in their skins until tender, about an hour. Let cool on a rack, cutting them open to help cool and let more moisture escape.
Scoop out the potatoes from their skins. Mash the potatoes by hand and fluff them up a bit with a fork. It is best to work with the potatoes when they are still warm.
Add the flour, egg and a pinch of salt. Mix by hand until you have a nice pliable ball of dough. Do not overmix.
Prepare a work area and dust it with flour. Take the dough, a piece at a time, and roll it out gently with your hands until you have rolls about 3/4 inch in diameter. It is very important to keep a light touch while you are rolling the dough. Gently roll the dough with your fingertips while while exerting the lightest pressure outwards, not down, to draw the dough out.
Cut the tubes of dough into pieces about one inch long. Using either the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press against a piece of the dough and roll it slightly to form an indentation (good for catching the sauce). As the gnocchi are made, place them on flat baking pan, lightly dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi ahead of time. Freeze them first on a floured or lined tray, then once frozen you can put them into a freezer bag for more easy storage. Bring water to a boil in medium sauce pot. Add a few gnocchi at a time—once they float to the top, place them on a wax papered cookie sheet. Reserve 1/4 c cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and the tomatoes, garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Add the drained gnocchi, the reserved cooking liquid, and the Parmesan and toss. Divide among individual bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.
NOTES: This literally took 45 minutes from start to finish, which I think is quite good for such a delicious meal that tastes like it took all day!
What’s your favorite Italian dish?