In this weekly culinary column, I will be focusing on one dish – giving the reader a quick history of the dish, the classical
preparation of it, and of course, my own spin on the classic.
This week I am choosing to cover gnocchi. This dish can be tricky, to say the least – truly great gnocchi comes from experience and developing a feel for this pasta. You must learn to be delicate with your kneading, for if the gnocchi is overworked, it may become tough or chewy – becoming something we chefs like to call “stomach bombs.”
The origin of gnocchi is from Italy, but, there are too many regional changes on the main ingredients to accurately determine which would be the “truest” form of gnocchi. The main ingredients that are most commonly used in the making of this dish are potato and/or semolina. Common variations also point to bread crumbs or wheat flours as the base dry ingredient for gnocchi. Many recipes call for eggs to help bind the pasta.
2 cupsSemolina flour
3 largeEggs, beaten
1 cupCooked mashed potatoes
¼ cupEvoo (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 tspSea salt
1 oz Water
Start by sifting the flour and the salt together in a bowl. Separately in another bowl beat the eggs. In the first bowl, add the mashed potatoes, oil and water – stir until the ingredients are combined – be sure not to over-mix the ingredients. Once fully incorporated, make a “well” in the middle of the bowl. Add the eggs to the “well” and mix by hand until fully incorporated and the dough forms into a ball. Then, form the pasta as you wish. To cook the pasta, bring a medium pot of salted water to a slow boil and allow the gnocchi to cook for 8 minutes, or until the pasta floats.
1 lbCooked Squash (I prefer red curry for color and buttercup for flavor)
2 largeEgg yolks, beaten
6 ozSemolina flour
1 tbspBlack pepper, freshly cracked
1 tbspSea salt
1 tspNutmeg, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve the squash, taking out the seeds and “guts.” Place the squash cut-side down on a on an oven sheet/tray and roast in the oven. Once the shell of the squash begins to soften to the touch, flip the squash and allow to cook until the “meat” has softened and just starts to dry. Pull the squash from the oven and allow to cool down at room temp. Once warm to touch, peel the meat from the skin of the squash and place in a food processor. Buzz the squash until there are no chunks left and it has become a “creamy” texture. Once the desired texture is achieved, add the squash to a bowl, followed by the eggs and the seasonings. With a rubber spatula, mix the ingredients until they are all blended. Add the flour and fold the dough until it becomes one texture – taking care not to over-mix this dough. Then, form the pasta as you wish. To cook the pasta, bring a medium pot of salted water to a slow boil and allow the gnocchi to cook for 8 minutes, or until the pasta floats.
I personally like the play with squash here – it opens up a lot of options and is a nice twist on a dish that is made everywhere. Personally, I like to keep it simple with this dish and pair it with sage and browned butter – also, I feel that any type of toasted nuts or pesto are an excellent compliment.
Whether you choose to prepare the classic version, my twist or your own interpretation, remember that food is about bringing people together. When you put your heart into the food you cook, the people you are cooking for will be appreciative of it – and you.
If you have any questions for me or would like to see me cover any particular dish in this column, feel free to write to me, care of this publication. From my kitchen to yours, it has been a pleasure to give you a peak into a chefs mind. Thank You
Jonathan Jolicoeur is a chef at A Tavola – an Italian restaurant on Church Street in Winchester – a restaurant that focuses of farm to table and regional Italian cooking. Jonathan was born in Somerville, lives in Woburn and is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College in Cambridge.