For the most part I prefer to use my own recipes, things that I have tweaked and messed with over a period of months or years in order to get things just right. Occasionally an occasion will occur that calls for a recipe straight from a book. Either because no amount of tweaking can make it better than it already is or because it’s something so finicky that I’m terrified to alter it for fear of making a huge disaster. There are very few items that follow in that second category, matzo balls are one and gnocci are the other. I have tried MANY recipes in my attempt to make this delicious potato wonders and none of them have resulted in a success. Either the gnocci never firms up to be shaped or it dies in the pot, which is the most common result. Then I got THE BOOK. The book that told me why it was my gnocci just wasn’t working, and it turned out it wasn’t me: it was the potato I was using. What is this miracle book? Cafe Firenze
by Fabio Viviani
(aka from the Italian Stallion from Top Chef). Fabio might not have won (silly Josea) but he showed himself to be a true class act and when I found out that my roommate at the time was fortunate enough to live in his hometown I began my master plan. The dream was to travel to CA and have dinner at his amazing restaurant, however work (and politics) got in the way to I had to settle. So instead of my first Top Chef dining experience I got his book (autographed! to me!) and a yummy headshot (also signed!). While most of the recipes are well beyond my skill level a few things have been attempted, including his killer recipe for gnocci. One of the best things about his cookbook is that the writing style directly reflects his speaking style, meaning that this book is written as if he is talking to you. Nothing is written in the traditional 1. 2. 3. style…everything is written in paragraph (or run on sentence form) and his recipe for gnocci is no exception. The very first line is “5 Medium size Russet or Kennebee Potatoes” which is followed by an EXTREMELY detailed reason why one must use those potatoes. After explaining his reasonings he ends his very long sentence with a sort of threat involving the food-police. That is why this book is THE BOOK and not just another cooking book. He tells you like it is and gives reasoning behind any ingredient that might not be seen as traditional. So without further adiou here is the most amazing gnocci recipe ever, which I prepared for the most important occasion ever: Joey’s birthday.
Ingredients: (taken directly from Cafe Firenze with some minor edits for grammer/clarity)
5 Medium size Russet or Kennebee Potatoes (don’t ask, just do)
1 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 large egg
6 oz fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp salt
8 oz All Purpose Flour
1 stick of butter (melted)
1. Peel the potatoes and boil them in water until they are cooked but still firm. Put them in a large glass bowl with the butter, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix well with a hand mixer (or blender) on high speed scraping the edges of the bowl frequently.
2. Spread the mixture into a flat sheet pan refrigerate for at least 4hrs, and overnight is possible. Remove from fridge and mix again this time while slowly adding the flour. Remove the dough from the mixture and cut into smaller pieces. Roll these pieces into snake like shapes and then dust with flour. Cut the snakes into 1/2 in by 1/2 in mini snakes, using a fork to firm up if desired. Refrigerate for 30minutes.
3. While the gnocci is in the fridge bring a large pot of water to a boil. ADD SALT! Slowly add the gnocci, making sure to not over crowd the pan. The gnocci are ready when they float. Remove immediately and add more gnocci until all are cooked. Serve!
I find that I cook gnocci in perfect silence which is why I made sure to give Joe his birthday gift the night before, bribery if you will to insure no distractions. For a different take of things Fabio also gives instructions for how to fry gnocci, which I have yet to attempt.
To go with this pillows of perfected potatoes I made a Rose sauce that is similar to one done at a local Italian restaurant. The trick to rose sauces is adding the cream at just the right moment in order to get the perfect balance. This recipe is not from the cookbook, or any other cookbook other than the one I am “writing,” which is nothing more than a cool notebook with Cherry Blossoms on the front.
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp EVOO
1 small green pepper, diced
5 Roma Tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup light cream
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the green pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cover and cook for 15minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes.
2. Once the gnocci have added to the pot for cooking add the cream, cook for a final 5 minutes. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper and Serve!
For some reason my brain thought this wouldn’t be enough food, so I also made up some Marsala green beans (recipe featured a few weeks ago) in order to finish things up. I also made a special Birthday dessert but I think this post is long enough as is so that can wait for another night. Ciao!