2009 April: Pasta Primer

2009 April: Pasta PrimerI have dabbled with gnocchi for years, but I keep coming back to this one as my favorite. I prefer a gnocchi (called cavatelli more often than not in my family) with a chewy texture, one that “argues with the teeth” just a bit after cooking. Gnocchi made with potato will not deliver that good chew (and are difficult to make). However, this gnocchi (N’YOHkee), made with a combination of fl our and ricotta cheese, will.

This recipe will make just over two pounds of gnocchi dough, but you will need only 20 ounces for this sauce recipe. The small nubbins of gnocchi freeze nicely. Place the unused, formed gnocchi on a lightly floured sheet pan. Freeze the gnocchi for about one hour. Transfer to a plastic freezer bag or other container and return to the freezer. The gnocchi will keep for two months.

To cook the frozen gnocchi, take them right from the freezer and drop them in boiling, salted water (do not thaw). The cooking time will be 6-8 minutes. 

GNOCCHI

1 pound ricotta cheese, drained of excess water

2 extra-large eggs

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon salt

3½ -4 cups all-purpose flour

GORGONZOLA CREAM SAUCE

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 carton (half-pint) whipping cream

2 ounces (½ cup) Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To make the gnocchi, put the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan and salt in a food processor. Process for about 30 seconds to combine.

Add 3½ cups fl our and turn on the machine to combine. With the machine running, add more fl our, ¼ cup at a time until a dough forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Put the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute.

Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll it between the palms of your hand to form a rope about ¼-inch in diameter. Cut the rope into pieces about ½-inch long. Press your thumb firmly into the center of each piece. Cover with a clean towel and set aside (or freeze for later use).

In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, melt the butter (do not brown). Add the whipping cream and raise the heat to medium-high. Add the Gorgonzola and bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce slightly, creaming the crumbles of cheese. Remove the pan from the heat.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling, salted water. They will be done about 30 seconds after they rise to the surface of the boiling water. Drain.

Set the sauté pan with the sauce over medium heat. Transfer the gnocchi to the sauté pan. Toss the gnocchi to coat with the sauce. Add the Parmesan and toss again. Serve at once.

Cook’ Note: You can scale up the gnocchi recipe in direct proportion and make a batch to use that day or freeze for later use. In service, you can boil the gnocchi ahead if necessary and hold. Finish off each portion in the prepared cream sauce.

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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