I don’t even like gnocchi that much.
Of course as a human with taste buds and an appreciation for carbohydrates, I like gnocchi. But I think I’m limiting my own enjoyment of it with my sheer gnocchi-making incompetence. I make gnocchi so frequently that I should just be much better at it, and so haphazardly that I don’t think I’ll ever improve. It’s the perfect recipe for when you have 3 hours to kill, an essay to procrastinate, or a pantry which only has potatoes, tomatoes, and flour. I make gnocchi most often when my life is so chaotic I can only bind it together with potato starch: it is my no-holds-barred solution for any major or minor life catastrophe.
In order to make gnocchi, you must first obtain a recipe—mine begins at midnight, returning from a rock-climbing centre, gnocchi comrade at hand and ingredients collected. Negotiate the maze of collegiate annex accommodation, locate the less-than-sterile kitchen, and lay out your ingredients: a bag of potatoes, flour, canned tomatoes, spinach, ricotta, dried thyme, and salt.
You should start by peeling your potatoes. Get so lost in peeling potatoes and post-workout midnight chat that you peel a few too many. Like, 10 too many. Set half of them aside and cut your remaining stash of potatoes into 2-inch cubes, adding them to a pot of salted water. Every other cooking demand can be taken with a pinch of salt, but salting your water really is important. Please, please, salt your potato water. You should really put them in cold water and bring the pot to a boil so that the potatoes can cook evenly, but if it is now 1am and you are bored, just ladle half of the potatoes (+ salted water) into a dish so that you can microwave them for about 6 minutes. Once you’ve successfully boiled your potatoes (whatever your method) drain your pan and realise that you still have twice as many potatoes as you need. Grab as many as you can face and make your gnocchi-comrade mash them to a pulp. Use the latest rejects to add to your growing potato behemoth.
“Every other cooking demand can be taken with a pinch of salt, but salting your water really is important”
Potato mashing is the gateway drug to the proper, regressive fun of mixing the dough with your hands, with one part flour combining to one part potato. In the comfort of your home, at 2pm, you can weigh out equal measures of potatoes and flour. At 1:30am, in a student kitchen, the best you can do is eyeball equally sized piles. Try and make the potato mush into a well, to best contain the flour as you combine the two into what optimists refer to as a ‘dough’, and anthropologists refer to as a ‘paste’. Enjoy the sensation of potato stuck to your hands which will haunt you for the next week, and you’re ready to go move on to the next level!
Rolling the gnocchi dough into vaguely phallic sausages is the perfect time to realise the romantic undertones of your late night pasta endeavour. As you slice the sausages into centimetre-ish cubes, you can take this moment to explain why you’re not in a place to date anyone right now. It has a lot to do with why you’re making gnocchi in someone else’s kitchen past midnight. Shape your dough blobs (roll them gently into balls, or slide them down a fork to give them a texture the pasta sauce can stick to), and then add them to a pot filled with boiling (and salted!) water. The gnocchi will float to the top when they’re cooked, and all you have to do is scoop them out of the pot and into a temporary holding place. Taste test a couple. Discover how gluey gnocchi tastes if you don’t do anything else with it. On with the sauce!
“The gnocchi will float to the top when they’re cooked, and all you have to do is scoop them out of the pot and into a temporary holding place”
Empty your tin of tomatoes into a shallow saucepan so that your shitty hob will warm them as quickly as possible, because it is past 2am and you are so, so tired. Add a generous pinch of salt, and an equal amount of thyme. If you can find a tiny bit of sugar to sprinkle in, it will help to cut the acidity of the canned tomatoes. If you can’t, don’t worry – nobody likes a fancy prick anyway. Once your tomatoes have heated up (checking using either a teaspoon or your least favourite finger), stir in the spinach until it’s wilted. In a separate saucepan, add butter and gnocchi on a medium-high heat (depending on your patience), and gently fry the gnocchi until the outside is lightly golden; this step will also heat them up if you have managed your cooking time poorly. Add your gnocchi to your sauce, along with several dollops of ricotta. (The ricotta will ultimately make the sauce look less appetising, but it makes it taste so good that without the off-putting visual you would probably eat it all in one sitting and then feel terrible. It’s a blessing in disguise). Serve the gnocchi, eat the gnocchi, swear never to make it again. Repeat every 2 months.
– Potatoes (half a large baking potato per person)
– Flour (weigh out to measure)
– Canned chopped tomatoes (half a can per person)
– Spinach (half a bag per person)
– Ricotta (1 tbsp per person)
– Dried thyme (1 pinch per person)
– Boil the potatoes in salted water
– Mash the potatoes
– Combine equal parts potato and flour
– Roll the potato dough into penis sausages and cut into gnocchi pieces
– Throw the raw gnocchi into a pot of boiling water and remove when the dumplings float to the top
– Heat the tomatoes in a separate pan, adding thyme, salt, and spinach
– Heat a third pan on medium heat and add the gnocchi and some butter or oil
– Once the gnocchi is lightly golden, combine the sauce, gnocchi, and some dollops of ricotta
Image credit – avlxyz