Just so we are clear on how much I love pasta, besides loving it with the red, white, black, pink, green, and all the medley of sauces out there, I enjoy it as is too. And I mean, no sauce. Plain pasta appeals to me. Believe it or not. Believe it. In fact, when I cook pasta, I usually make way too much pasta (read my tips on Cooking The Perfect Pasta) and end up with no sauce to pair. But it never goes to waste. And it never will. So when I heard the words “gnocchi,” “Italian granny,” and “come,” I didn’t need to hear the rest of the sentence. I came.
Today’s Cucina in Italia session was hosted by the IIC (Istituto Italiano di Cultura) Jakarta, jointly led by the talented and spirited Cecilia and Alessandro, and get this: Cecilia’s nonna (granny) and zia (auntie) all the way in Italy via the unflagging support of our good friend Skype. And by the way, Nonna and Zia were as excited as we were about gnocchi, although with regards to command and speed, we were a little behind. But hey, in our defense, there were many of us cramped into one little kitchen.
Hi Nonna and Zia! It was as if they were right there with us. Well, they kinda were.
I promise I was paying attention to the class, most of the time.
The making of gnocchi was pretty straightforward. The ingredients were simple: potato, egg, flour, nutmeg, and salt. That’s it! Most of the work centered around cooking the potatoes and smashing them smooth. And then everything else was up to our deft hands to massage the dough with the flour, forming it into little gnocchi bites, and finally cooking them in hot water.
All hands on deck! If you’re not making a lot of mess, you’re not doing this right.
The flour helps to make sure the dough isn’t sticky. So if you feel the dough sticking to your fingers, call on the farina.
Too many cooks in the kitchen? This may or may not be the situation. I really wish I had brought a pair of flats with me instead of getting around in the kitchen in those not-kitchen-proof heels (but they were Italian though, ha!). Hey, we were headed straight for a wedding after. Otherwise I’d most definitely be in jeans!
Next, we prepared the “Al Pomodoro” part of the recipe, which called for some chopped onions, tomatoes, and basil. One tip when using basil: never chop the leaves off with a knife because by doing so, you’re letting the flavor and aroma escape. Simply pluck them off the stem with your fingers.
The gnocchi took just a few minutes to cook, since it’s fresh. When they rise to the top, you know they’re done. And the last step not to be missed: thoroughly mixing the pasta with the sauce. I know some of us like to add as much or as little sauce to our pasta as we like, instead of mixing it altogether, which I suppose is valid. But this is the sure Italian way to do things around here. You are supposed to have every pasta bit covered in sauce, because that’s where most of the flavor comes from. The trick is to cook the pasta slightly under al dente, so by the time these little guys reach your lips, they would still be al dente.
What resulted was a whole lot of flour mess, but a rewarding warm plate of Gnocchi Al Pomodoro. What a fun recipe to try at home, with little kids too (get them working their hands). A shoutout to Cecilia, Alessandro, Qissera, and Jen of Decisive Cravings for a fun cookout!