giovedi', gnocchi!

[joe-vay-dee, nyoke-key]

Although we may have heard that Wednesday is spaghetti day in America, maybe back in the early days before we understood what a crime spaghetti in a can is (a Madison Avenue ad campaign had to be responsible for planting this popular slogan "wednesday, spaghetti day" in the back of our minds), as I was saying, Thursday really is gnocchi day in Italy. Fresh pasta shops or even family restaurants can often be spotted with that little temporary sign in the window "giovedi gnocchi" (no comma or exclamation mark), something about getting ready for the weekend, or maybe its just like fish on Friday. Anyway gnocchi are little potato dumpling blobs that pass for pasta and which easily conceal their potential for yummy good taste. But can nevertheless be found in Italian-American pasta shops and even generic supermarkets (frozen pasta section). And can even be made fresh if they can't.

Once you've got them, the question is: what sauce? Here is where Marcella Hazan made a believer out of us. She'd already convinced us with her lasagna noodle remarks (another story), but this was a pleasant confirmation. For about 6 people, Marcella says:

ingredients (marcella classics -> essentials)

1/4 lb butter (-> 1/3 c)
3 T finely chopped yellow onion
3 T finely chopped carrot
3 T finely chopped celery
2.5 c canned italian tomatoes, with their juice (-> or 2.5 lb fresh ripe tomatoes)
2 t salt, more if necessary (-> left to taste)
1/4 t granulated sugar (-> omitted)
1/2 c heavy cream
(-> freshly grated parmigiano for the table)

instructions (marcella)

  1. Put everything except the cream in a saucepan and cook at the "merest simmer" for 1 hour (-> 45 minutes), uncovered. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  2. Pure the stuff and bring to a simmer, stirring again with the same wooden spoon. (-> increase simmer heat and then...) Add the heavy cream and stir-cook for 1 minute more. Taste and correct for salt.
  3. Use immediately. (or else!)

notes (but we say...)

  1. butter? we used to substitute margarine, but since we were getting soft margarine for a long time, we had to go with the butter anyway since it was conveniently packaged in T unit marked 1/4 lb sticks. we gave up margarine when we decided that it was too plastic. looks like marcella cut the butter in half for the new edition.
  2. onions don't come in neat T units. we just grated up a smallish medium onion.
  3. same for the carrot. we just took a smallish carrot and grated it in sections in our Moulinex cheese grater. maybe now we would use our food processor.
  4. celery? we forgot. usually when we buy a bunch of celery for a 3 T recipe, they just sit in the fridge until they go soft on us. but nowadays supermarket salad bars solve this problem. if we remember.
  5. canned plum tomatoes? yeah, we usually use them in our sauces. a 28 oz can (the standard big one) is probably right. but lately we've been thinking more about eating fresh. so we have been buying fresh plum tomatoes, the softest ones we can find. (even regular tomatoes work here.) we put them in boiling water for 20 minutes to remove the skins ... just once and never bothered again. and even that time we had some trouble with splitting skins. skins are fiber, no? the food processor is probably the right tool to pulverize them before using. (our Vitamix juicer really loses the skins anyway, but we never lift it up to use anymore.)
  6. meanwhile we sauted the onions and carrots but not the forgotten celery in the butter in a big pot. then added the tomato sauce, salt, sugar and simmered for about an hour on low heat. nice to know that only 45 minutes are really necessary.
  7. for the gnocchi (about 1 lb), a big pasta pot of boiling water—a little salt and dumped 'em in. they rise to the top. you have to do the al dente test to figure out if they're done. when they are, drain 'em.
  8. heavy cream? we bought light cream, being more health conscious. worked fine.
  9. added the gnocchi to the sauce pot. and 1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano. it's all right to let is sit around a few minutes but not more.
  10. enjoy.

update 2006

In the summer of 2005 we made gnocchi with two Italian grandmothers south of Rome, giving us the courage to follow through in 2006 with Lidia's inspired gnocchi pesto combination made from scratch. Though slow to recognize her as the queen of US TV Italian cuisine, we have come around to appreciate her love and authenticity in the kitchen. Taking the dr bob cooking team on the road, we enlisted Isgouhi's help, and not only had a good time in the production phase, but were really satisfied with the results. Gnocchi are really near the top of the all time effective comfort food list.

Apparently it is only near Rome that Thursday is gnocchi day... anyway, take a peak at the illustrations.

gnocchi.htm: 14-nov-2006 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]