Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sausage, Spinach and Mushroom Gnocchi

After attending a gnocchi-making class it was time to take what I had learned and do it in my own kitchen.  Without a teacher to guide me, I was a little insecure but I had to try sometime! It was easy, I had no problems. The little tips our chef had given us helped me along. My Hubbers was so impressed, which is always a good thing!

Making gnocchi is very similar to making pasta, the only difference being gnocchi is made with potatoes.  It's a matter of lightly mixing and kneading the potatoes, flour and eggs until a smooth dough is formed.  Lightly is the key word, working the dough too much makes for a tough gnocchi dough. No mixing bowls or spoons, just the oldest cooking tool of all, our hands!

Some gnocchi recipes call for the potatoes to be boiled, some are baked.  After reading many gnocchi recipes and articles, I decided to stick with baking the potatoes, same as we did in class.  They have less moisture this way, so you don't need as much flour. A potato ricer is a must.  It's like a large garlic press; the potatoes are pressed through it resulting in rice-size pieces of potato.  Again, this makes for a lighter gnocchi.
After being put through the potato ricer, the rice-sized pieces of cooked potato are ready for the eggs and flour.

I used a gnocchi board to make ridges on the gnocchi.
I've had gnocchi many times but always with a traditional marinara-type sauce.  During our class we made two very untraditional sauces so I was determined to do the same with my first batch of gnocchi.  I found a mixture with Italian sausage, mushrooms & spinach. I knew my Hubbers would love that. It was a filling dinner and one I will make again. 

As it was just the two of us for dinner, I had extra uncooked gnocchi that I froze for another day. I'm looking forward to trying other sauces and types of gnocchi. Our 2-hour class was full of great instruction and built up my confidence to make gnocchi at home!

Homemade Gnocchi (adapted from recipe by Lidia Bastianich)

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, scrambled
1 1/4 cup flour, plus more if necessary

Bake or boil potatoes until potatoes are soft and can be pierced with a fork.  Cool until able to touch.

Peel potatoes and cut in half.  Put each half in a potato ricer and push potato through.  Repeat with the rest of the potatoes.

Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet (I used my countertop), sprinkle with salt and let cool.

Once the potatoes are cool, pile in a rectangular mound.  Pour eggs** over the potatoes and sprinkle with the flour.  Using your hands, slowly incorporate all the ingredients.

Once all the ingredients are incorporated, gently knead dough until smooth.  DO NOT OVERKNEAD.

Divide the dough into four quarters.  Using your hands, roll each quarter into a rope, about 1/2 inch thick.  Use flour as needed.

Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut gnocchi rope into 1/2-inch pieces. 

If desired, make ridges on the gnocchi using a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork.  Doing so helps the sauce adhere to the gnocchi.

**  My eggs were large so I didn't use all of them.

To cook the gnocchi:  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Season liberally with salt.  Add gnocchi and cook for 7-8 minutes, or until gnocchi rise to the top. Don't overcrowd the pan, work in batches if necessary.

Sausage, Spinach and Mushroom Sauce

3/4 pound Italian sausage (mild or spicy)
1 small diced onion
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
10 ounces of chopped fresh spinach
Salt & pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Brown sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat and break it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon.  Add the onion and mushrooms to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the cooked gnocchi to the skillet and gently toss to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.

Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

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