The Legend of Gnocchi

Nonnas worldwide cried out in unison while I attempted to make gnocchi from scratch. The biggest disappoint probably  came from Anna Sartor whose recipe I tried to follow from the Little Italy Festival Town Cookbook.

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Don’t judge me Anna!

I know I revealed my hand early here, but when I started this blog I promised to tell the truth of my misfortune. I never ever claimed to even be a sous-chef let alone an expert cook, but I thought I could handle gnocchi. No one warned me. No wise elder came to me to say…

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I hope Link knows how lucky he is

The good news is that after I failed to make gnocchi I did find that there is a tool that will make your life easier and even though it’s not Christmas yet, my wise elder of a mom has gifted me my master sword for Christmas so I can conquer the gnocchi monster and save Zelda.

That magical item by the way is called a potato ricer and trust me, you do not want to skimp on that. You’re going to need it.

The other stuff you’ll need is

  • 3 large potatoes (boiled with jackets on)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of spaghetti sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of grated cheese

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I need to defend my honor. This cookbook was written in a time where more people cooked on the regular and even my mother defended me and said that the ladies who wrote these recipes assumed people knew little details because at the time most people did know.

It’d be like if I told all of you how to boil pasta. Which, some people out there may not even know how to do that I realize. Which is partly why I make the joke to follow package instructions, but you never know what people know or don’t know.

The first step is to boil the potatoes before you peel them. This step is where I let myself down. There is no instruction of how long to boil and I  did not use my critical thinking skills which I’m famous for at my day job.

I forgot that potatoes take awhile to soften and used the ole put a vegetable in a pot of water, turn the stove setting to high, and once boiling remove.

That is not enough time for potatoes my friends.

So what do you do? You boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they rise to the top of your pot. The chemistry of cooking is very important when making gnocchi so be sure to do the fork test to make sure 20 minutes was enough time.

If you don’t know what the fork test is, it’s just sticking a fork into the potato to make sure it’s tender, but don’t let the potato become mushy either.

Once the potato is done boiling, drain the water and allow them to cool and dry.

The next step is to peel the potatoes and them mash them in the potato ricer. As you do this it’s very important to keep an eye on how saturated the potatoes are. If they are too wet it can cause issues. Like I said earlier, chemistry is important when making gnocchi.

All of you already know I didn’t have the master sword when I made this, so what did I do? I peeled and diced the potatoes and then spent an hour trying to mash them with two wooden spatulas.

I do not recommend this method for making gnocchi, but I do recommend it as an alternative muscle building and toning exercise for your arms.

Hopefully you’re just breezing through with the potato ricer and are now ready to combine the flour with the potato. When these two ingredients are mixed, make a well for your egg and then beat the egg into the flour to eventually create your potato dough.

Use the kneading and rolling method to create a smooth voluminous dough ball.

We are now ready to pretend to be a kid again by making play-doh snakes. If you’ve never done that, all we are doing is taking a chunk of the dough and rolling it into a long, thin breadstick shape.

Once you have that shape, you then cut the dough into 1 inch pieces and make a little print on top with your fork.

By the way I didn’t get this far and was un-able to experience the joy of making potato snakes. My chemistry was bad and the potato was creating a glue like effect that made it near impossible to mix the dough. Nothing I tried could create the right consistency and I gave up.

This is why I’m harping on the whole chemistry thing. So please do pay attention if you want to succeed.

Once the gnocchi is created we can now boil. This is where you can use the whole put the stuff in the water, set to boil, and when it comes up to the top remove.

It looks like I did use some critical thinking, just not for the right item.

Once that happens, Anna then instructs you to serve like a casserole. This is not how I’ve eaten gnocchi but I could be misinterpreting her instructions. I’d just normally pour sauce on top and sprinkle some grated cheese. Which is what she says to do as well, but she also mentions layers which tells me this is being served more like lasagna.

I failed making the gnocchi so when I saw this casserole step I tried making my potato junk into a casserole. I did this by layering it up and then baking until the cheese on top melted a little. The end result is pictured below.

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The potato casserole experiment

It didn’t turn out bad, but it wasn’t good either.

My mother and my LA/cooking BFF have already expressed interest in making this with me. Neither have made gnocchi before, but are up for the challenge.  I’m surprised that my mother hasn’t. I think she left that task up to her older sister. Whoever becomes my champion will be featured in an update to this post. I will select retry and look forward to having some assistance. Stay tuned.

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Gamers always retry

Darling Party Bread Spread

Olives know how to party according to Carol Darling from Tastes of Monroe County.

By the way, I didn’t know Darling was a real name. I thought that was just a cutsie thing made up for Peter Pan. The Darlings. Wendy Darling. Pan’s little precious.

I wonder if that’s why Tink was so annoyed with him. Maybe she felt he picked Wendy to give a thimble kiss to based on her last name. It seems something a man with Peter Pan syndrome would do right?

Sadly I’ve become a bitter lady and what once was a cute movie about a boy who got to fly and hang out with a badass fairy is now a metaphor of all the immature men out there promising you Neverland and not delivering.

That’s why it’s called Neverland, cause it’s never going to happen.

You know what can happen though? Olive party spreads.

So let’s forget about the Pans in our lives and deal with the bitterness by cooking.

What you’ll need

  • 1 cup of finely chopped pecans
  • 2 large hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1 4 ounce jar of green pimento olives, finely chopped

Another reason this recipe is your answer when recovering from bitterness about Pans is that all you have to do is combine all ingredients together and then stick in the fridge.

Like with Pan, you’ll have to wait around, but only for 6 hours and un-like Pan the olive spread will deliver on it’s promises.

Enjoy the spread with crackers or bread as the title suggests. You can party with either one. I myself chose crackers.

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If you just look at the ingredients in this spread it sounds very odd, but don’t discredit it. It’s actually palatable. I was pleased with the results. The consistency and taste were similar to a cream cheese, cheese ball my uncle makes. Which is scrumptious by the way.

The mayo combined with the egg created a smooth cheese-like texture while the olive, onions, and pecans assisted in giving a slightly bitter and chunky flavor. The olives did make it more bitter than a cheese ball, but I still feel like they are similar enough that you could call them first cousins.

Despite the similarities, I don’t think it’s a healthier alternative to a cheese ball. If your mind was going there. I’d need a nutritionist to look into it, but I’m pretty sure mayo is just as bad as cream cheese. It might be slightly less in calorie-intake, but not enough to justify as a replacement if you have a cheese ball addiction.

Whether you do or not, I recommend trying this spread out. It’s not difficult to make and most of you know I like to encourage trying new things. It makes life enjoyable.

Pear Ravioli

This Pear Ravioli is the second and final installment of ravioli recipes my family learned together during our cooking class many years ago.

If you recall from my entry about Pumpkin Ravioli, I had a couple of ideas that I thought would make this process easier. One idea was to use an ice cube tray to help me portion the filling. That didn’t quite work out, so I am now thinking getting a ravioli gadget is worth it.

That being said, I felt my ability to do this manually so to speak went a lot smoother. I still had some imperfectly shaped ravioli, but I feel with more practice and some gadgets my problems with ravioli will be solved.

Keeping all of this in mind, the great news about making your own ravioli is that even if you mess it up, it’ll still taste yummy. I can’t make that case for everything, but knowing this is great for your morale if you end up struggling.

What you’ll need

  • 1 cup of fresh pears, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan, asiago, or percorino cheese
  • 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 2/3-1 cup of parmesan

Our first step will be to make the filling and that consists of combing the pears, ricotta cheese, and the grated cheese of your choice from above.

Just mix those three ingredients together and then set aside.

The sauce and filling are a breath of fresh air to make. The real challenge is making the ravioli and that challenging process begins with making your own dough.

When making my pasta dough, I enjoy this recipe and culinary lesson of making pasta by this wonderful pasta scientist. She breaks down all the different ways you can make dough and the science behind it. My mother always said cooking is a lot like chemistry and this article makes that apparent. You can find her informative article here.

Once you’ve made your dough, the next step is to pull apart a quarter of your round dough ball and flatten that with a roller or pasta maker into a large rectangular shape. This step will be repeated until it’s all gone by the way. Taking only a 1/4 just helps maintain the portion we need for each batch.

By the way, feel free to look up how to make ravioli on that same link from above. There are other articles on that site and one of them is specifically for ravioli.

Back to my own process, once I made this rectangular shape, I attempted to use my ice cub tray as a measuring tool of filling size and more.

It did help me determine how large each ravioli piece should be, but it wasn’t as useful as I had hoped. I ended up discarding the tray and folding the dough in half from top to bottom after I placed my filling.

To place the filling I used a teaspoon to scoop out my filling. Then I placed that filling on the bottom portion of the rectangle about an inch above the border and the center of the bottom half. Each ball of filling was about 2 inches apart, give or take. That part is pretty easy to eye ball.

Once my filling was placed, that’s when I folded the top half over the bottom. I then used my fingers to sculpt the ravioli by creating a border between each piece and pushing the filling even more into a circular shape.

Once I felt things were even, I then cut the dough to separate each ravioli piece from the other and with a fork indented lines around the border.

While you’re making the ravioli by the way, I do suggest you boil a pot of water, so that once the ravioli is done you can just dump it in to cook.

That process should take around 7 minutes and while it’s boiling is the perfect time to make your sauce.

Making the sauce is even easier than making the filling. All you do is heat the cream, butter, and parmesan in a sauce pan until the cheese and butter has melted. Salt and pepper to taste and that’s all she wrote for the sauce.

Now all we need to do is strain the water once the ravioli is done cooking and serve individually with the sauce on top like below.

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This is another challenging recipe that I personally want to improve on, but turned out well despite that fact. I need to be more patient and thin out the dough more, because I always end up with leftover filling and thick pasta.

I enjoyed the pear version over the pumpkin as well. Sweet pear bites go well with bland (that’s my opinion) ricotta and that cream sauce is simple but comforting and yummy.

Despite the challenges you might face, I think this recipe is worth trying out because even if you fail with the ravioli, it’ll still taste good. Just maybe don’t serve it to any judgemental people in your life until you perfect it. If you care about their judginess that is. I personally enjoy making judgy people squirm sometimes. That sentence alone I’m sure has caused a great disturbance in the grammar police force. As I type it, it’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror.

It’s good for their mental health to be challenged to relax a little don’t you think?

Hopefully it is, otherwise I’m being seduced by the dark side and could use some help.