Day: August 25, 2011

Gnocchi with Leeks and Crispy Basil

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It’s been one of those “what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks do I have in the refrigerator / pantry today” kind of days.  But this recipe started out as an inspiration; an “a-ha!” moment, if you will.  For whatever reason, I was inspired to try to make gnocchi today (and by “today” I mean the same day that I’m writing this).  No idea why. . . I’ve never made gnocchi before. . . I don’t have a wise old Italian grandmother who can teach the wonders of making my own dumplings.  But I did have a bunch of leeks and a bushel of basil from the farmer’s (or is it farmers) market.  And I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the night before, so it all made sense.  I could make a shepherd’s pie, but I have the day off so why not try something new?

Now I know that you’re not supposed to use mashed potatoes when making gnocchi, but how different can it be?  There’s just a little extra cream and butter, maybe some garlic. . . and there are probably some recipes out there that would add all that stuff in anyway.  The only problem that I had was my lack of a ricer or a food mill, which I totally recommend that you have if you make gnocchi a lot. . . or even a little, because I had to pass all this through a mesh strainer, which was a pain!

Being a novice at this is rather evident — I could not roll it out right, mainly because I was working with a too-big piece of dough (I altered the recipe to accommodate).  So that meant that the pieces I cut were huge, which also meant that I could not shape things right.  But with all those things incorrect, it still tasted pretty good.  Now I have gone to restaurants and had some bad gnocchi — too dense, too doughy, too bland.  Much to my surprise, these were pretty light, but probably could have used a little bit more salt — I thought the mashed potatoes were salty enough.

This is another one of those things that doesn’t have as exact measurements as I would like. I kept on adding flour to the dough since it was too wet (I assume from the mashed potatoes).  But something like that would probably happen if it’s too humid outside.  This is as close as I could get it.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c. leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for the dough and rolling
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil
  • canola oil
  • zest of a lemon

1.  Into a large bowl, run the mashed potatoes through a ricer, food mill, or a sieve.  Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, salt, & pepper.  Mix the eggs with a fork, gradually adding some of the potatoes along the sides of the well.

2.  Sprinkle the flour over the top and using the fork mix to combine, being careful not to overmix.  The dough should be moist, but not wet or sticky.  If it is still wet, sprinkle flour over the top 1/4 c. at a time and work in gently.

3.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out the dough into a thin log, about an inch wide.  Cut the dough into 3/4 in pieces and dust with flour.  Roll the pieces over the tines of a fork.  Place the rolled pieces onto a sheet pan.

4.  Bring some water to a boil in a large stock pot.  When it comes to a boil,  generously salt the water with about 1 T. salt.  Drop the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 5 minutes; when they are done, they will float to the surface.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Prepare the crispy basil.

5.  In a small pan, put about an inch of canola oil on medium-high.  Pinch off the individual basil leaves.  Working in small batches, fry the basil in the oil; it should only take a couple of seconds.  Remove the leaves and place on a wire rack lined with paper towel.

6.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the basil oil into the drained stock pot (I didn’t want to dirty another pan).  Place on medium high and sauté the leeks.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  When tender, add the gnocchi and heat through.  Toss with the lemon zest and serve.

Notes — Alright so here’s a little history for you, for which I know you’ve been chomping at the bit.  Gnocchi is probably one of the oldest recipes out there, with some documentation dating back to the 1300s.  There is debate on the origin of the word, but most agree that it has its roots in the Middle East. . . Traditionally, this is one of those meals that help extend your budget, since you can make it from simple ingredients. . . You can make these ahead of time and leave them in the refrigerator or maybe freeze them. . .