whole wheat gnocchi with pesto and asparagus/green beans
One of the many benefits of living in Italy as a young adult was the
early acquaintance with many terrific Italian foods that were virtually unknown to the
American public during the last century. dr bob learned about gnocchi quickly on his first extended
visit to the heart of Italy where a longstanding tradition in and around Rome has been the
sale of freshly made gnocchi for the weekend on Thursdays [giovedignocchi!].
Nowadays with increasing effectiveness, the public TV food shows and the Food
Network cable TV channel itself have done an incredible job in spreading the
good news here in the USA.
Authentic Italian cuisine has many pop stars now, from
Mario Batali to
Giada de Laurentiis, both of whom we highly respect, but let's face it, who can compete
with the reigning face of the quintessential Italian mom in the kitchen:
Lidia Bastianich, or just Lidia for short, since she seems to be the first celebrity
to be able to claim this one name as sufficient for identification, fortunate
since it is difficult to remember how to spell her family name. She exudes real
family values, patience and love, but most of all exquisite good taste. After
buying her first TV series book for the mother-in-law, who actually finds the
time to watch her show frequently, we bought the second one after viewing her
show on pesto gnocchi and nudi.
Pesto as we have learned, already has a natural affinity for
potatoes and green beans, so potato gnocchi in place of
the pasta is an easy stretch. The combination is a super comfort food that can
be made from scratch in an almost reasonable amount of time, but if time is
short, you can just use store-bought gnocchi of good quality. On our road trip
to the gnocchi party we forgot to pack our homemade pesto sauce, frozen in the
freezer without the cheese, so we stopped at Trader Joe's on the way and picked
up his generic stuff together with a bag of frozen asparagus tips and cuts,
bypassing the problem of the stringy ends of the asparagus stems. Everyone was
hungry so we had to cool down the riced potatoes on a cookie sheet in the
freezer for 10 minutes to hurry up the process. With three pairs of hands making
the gnocchi, it did not take long to get them ready for the stovetop. With the
slightly delayed dinner, the appetite effect accentuated the impact factor of
the finished dish. Six hungry adults. Not a single gnoccho remained standing.
- 1 1/2 lbs baking potatoes (we got 4 big ones but forgot to weigh them)
- 3/4 t salt
- 1 large egg, beaten well
- 3/4-1 c all-purpose flour sifted together with 3/4-1 c whole wheat flour.
- 1 c pesto sauce (we used a 6.7oz = 190g jar)
- about 3/4 lb asparagus or green beans angle cut into 1 inch lengths
- optional 4 T butter, melted (we missed this step)
- 1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano plus enough for each serving.
- Boil your cleaned potatoes with or without skins. We tried to do them
whole with skins, but impatiently waiting for a late dinner, tried to cut
them up in quarters when they were taking so long. Remove skins when done,
if still present.
- Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer onto a cookie sheet, spreading
them out evenly and sprinkling with the salt. Let cool and dry at least 20
minutes, or jam in the freezer if you can for half that time. Ours is a
narrow side-by-side, so this was only possible at the in-laws.
- Sift your two flours together. Beat an egg.
- Dump the potatoes into a large bowl, pour the egg over them and then
dump a cup of flour mixture on top.
- Get your hands into the stuff, and knead it all together, adding a
little flour at a time until the dough seems to hang together, but don't add
too much flour or the result will be dry and heavy.
- Cut off small chunks, about 10 altogether, and roll it between your
hands to form it into an elongated blob, then use both hands to roll it on
your floured wood cutting board back and forth to elongate it until it is
roughly 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut with a sharp knife into 2/3 inch lengths.
- Place each gnoccho cut side down on a fork and roll it off the fork with
your thumb to round it while imprinting it with ridges. Fake it. They don't
have to be pretty. Practice makes not perfect but at least improved results.
- Prepare the boiling water.
- Cook the asparagus/green beans, frozen is allowed.
- Cook the gnocchi. Place them in batches into the boiling water. Don't
crowd them too much. They are done when they rise to the surface. Use a big
circular spoon full of holes to remove the ones from the surface that are
done, adding new ones to eventually take their place. Place the done gnocchi
in a big warmed pasta bowl, with optional melted butter.
- Stir in the slightly warmed pesto sauce and combine with the
asparagus/green beans and parmigiano.
- Serve immediately, with additional grated parmigiano on each serving and
optional freshly grated black pepper.
- Our first gnocchi literary experience, sauce
only, last century.
- Lidia's Italy.
Lidia's Family Table: potato gnocchi, pages 210-212.
- Illustrations available.