Potato Gnocchi with Garlic Scape Pesto

I’m not a big cookbook person. I think they’re beautiful and interesting to read, but I find most of my recipes online with my reader. However, for Christmas last year I received Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, and when I leaf through it, I always find something I want to try! So I decided to pair this with a garlic scape pesto, since garlic scapes appeared at our farmer’s market and I wanted to try them out! Gnocchi via Hazan’s cookbook and the garlic scape pesto via NYT.

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GNOCCHI:

  • 1 ½ lbs boiling potatoes (like yukon gold)
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg [see note at end of recipe]

Put the potatoes with their skins on in a pot of abundant water, and bring to the boil. Cook until tender. Avoid testing them too often by puncturing with a fork because they  may become waterlogged. When done, drain them and pull of their skins while hot. Puree them through a food mill and onto a work surface while they are still warm. [If you’re like me, and don’t have a food mill, just grate them with a grater. It takes a little time but makes the work more manageable later. ]

 

Add most of the flour to the pureed potatoes and kneed into a smooth mixture. Some potatoes absorb less flour than others, so it is best not to add all the flour until you know how much they will take. Stop adding flour when the mixture has become soft and smooth, but still slightly sticky.

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Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Divide the potato and flour mass into 2 or more parts and shape each of them into a sausage-like  roll about 1 inch thick. Slice the rolls into pieces ¾ inches long. While working with gnocchi, dust your hands and the work surface repeatedly with flour.

 

You must now shape the gnocchi so that they will cook more evenly and hold sauce more successfully. [Let it be known: I could not figure out this shaping method. I tried, but in the end, you don’t REALLY need to shape your gnocchi. They will be delicious anyway.] 

 

Take a dinner fork with long, slim tines, rounded if possible. Working over the counter, hold the fork more or less parallel to the counter and with the concave side facing you. With the index finger of your other hand, hold one of the cut pieces against the inside curve of the fork, just below the tips of the prongs. At the same time that you are pressing the piece against the prongs, flip it away from the tips and in the direction of the fork’s handle The motion of the finger is flipping, not dragging. As the piece rolls away from the prongs, let it drop to the counter. If you are doing it correctly, it will have ridges on one side formed by the tines and a depression on the other formed by your fingertip. When gnocchi are shaped in this manner, the middle section is thinner and becomes more tender in cooking, while the ridges become grooves for sauce to cling to.

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Choose, if possible, a broad pan of about 6 quarts’ capacity and approximately 12 inches in diameter. The broader the better because it will accommodate more gnocchi at one time. Put in about 4 quarts of water, bring to a boil, and add salt. Before putting in the whole first batch of gnocchi, drop in just 2-3. Ten seconds after they have floated to the surface, retrieve them and taste them. If the flavor is too floury, you must add 2-3 seconds to the cooking time; if they are nearly dissolved, you must subtract 2-3 seconds. Drop in the first batch of gnocchi, about 2 dozen. In a short time they will float to the surface. Let them cook the 10 seconds, or more, or less, that you have determined they need, then retrieve them with a colander scoop or a large slotted spoon, and transfer them to a warm serving platter. Spread over them some of the sauce you are using and a light sprinkling of grated Parmesan. Drop more gnocchi into the pot and repeat the whole operation. When all the gnocchi are done, pour the rest of the sauce over them and more grated Parmesan, turn them rapidly with a wooden spoon to coat them well, and serve at once.

NOTE: If the potatoes you work with produce gnocchi dough that dissolves or collapses in cooking, you must add 1 whole egg to the pureed potatoes. [I did, and I found it helped with the texture.] 

GARLIC SCAPE PESTO:

  • 1 cup garlic scapes, sliced crosswise (about 10 to 12 scapes)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds [I used pine nuts instead.]
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup basil leaves
  • Juice of one lemon
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A bit blurry, of my cut up garlic scapes.

  1. Place the garlic scapes in a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the sunflower seeds [or pine nuts] and pulse for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the olive oil and process on high for 15 seconds.
  4. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse until the ingredients are combined.
  5. Add the basil and lemon juice, and process until reaching the desired consistency.
  6. Add salt to taste and serve immediately.
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