February 23, 2013 by Meg G.
Allow me to let you in a little secret: beautiful, delicious, “special occasion” meals don’t have to be difficult, all-day affairs. Take, for instance, this homemade gnocchi from Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. As she puts it, “Gnocchi is one of those dishes that has been made needlessly intimidating to make at home by well-intentioned but ultimated head-spinning recipes.” Hear that? Needlessly intimidating.
Heather and I decided to make this dish for Valentine’s Day. We love to cook together, so we’ve made a habit of dining in on V Day. We often choose dishes that we wouldn’t normally try to tackle on a weeknight – something that feels just a bit more special. In reality, this dish is manageable any night of the week, (particularly if you bake the potatoes ahead of time), but I promise I won’t tell your dinner guests!
Deb’s recipe pairs these lovely, pillowy gnocchi in a light tomato broth. You may find this a strange combination if you’re used to gnocchi served in creamy, buttery sauces. But let me tell you – this broth is so good I could have eaten it by itself. In fact, this broth might become the new “chicken noodle soup.” It’s a comforting, flavorful broth for those days when you just need to take care of yourself. Add some homemade gnocchi and you’ve just gone from sick day to special occasion. Here goes!
Homemade Gnocchi in a Tomato Broth – from Smitten Kitchen
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 medium stalk celery, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1/2 cup white wine
- One 28-ounce can whole or chopped tomatoes with juices
- Small handful fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 cups vegetable stock (homemade, if possible)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 pounds Russet potatoes
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
- Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size, until a thin knife can easily pierce through them. Meanwhile, prepare the tomato broth.
Make tomato broth:
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the carrot, celery, and onion, and cook together for 5 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if they begin to brown.
- Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more.
- Pour in the wine, and use it to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then cook the wine unti it is reduced by half, for several minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes, mashing them a bit with a spoon if they’re whole, and the basil and stock, and simmer until the tomato broth thickens slightly, for about 45 minutes.
- Strain out the vegetables in a fine-mesh colander, and season the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until needed.
- Let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes after baking, then peel them. Grate them on the large holes of a box grater.
- Cool them to lukewarm, about another 10 minutes.
- Add the egg and salt, mixing to combine.
- Add 1/2 cup flour, and mix to combine. Add the next 1/2 cup flour, mixing again. Add 1/4 cup flour, and see if this is enough to form a dough that does not easily stick to your hands. If not, add the last 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft but only a little sticky, and able to hold its shape enough to be rolled into a rope. Knead the dough together briefly, gently, on a counter, just for a minute.
- Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch lengths. Place the gnocchi on a parchment-lined tray.
- *If you’d like to freeze gnocchi for later user, do so on this tray. Once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag until needed. No need to defrost before cooking them; it will just take a minute or two longer.
- Place the gnocchi, a quarter-batch at a time, into a pot of boiling well-salted water. Cook the gnocchi until they float — about 2 minutes — then drain.
- Meanwhile, reheat broth to a simmer. Add drained gnocchi then reheat through.
- Serve gnocchi and broth together, garnished with a few slivers of basil leaves and/or a dollop of fresh ricotto or some Parmesan shavings, if desired.
We found that this recipe pretty much works as-is (no surprise there – it’s Deb, after all!). We did decide to freeze half of the gnocchi for an easy dinner down the road. I’d say that the recipe in its original form actually makes more like 8 servings of gnocchi and 4 servings of broth, but that depends on your ratio preferences.
Since it is just a broth, you strain out all of the delicious veggies before serving. We weren’t thinking that far ahead, so we wound up wasting them. (Sigh.) Next time I think we’ll probably purée them and add it to a batch of chili or some other soup. Get creative!
I think it might actually be illegal to celebrate V Day without chocolate, so I made some super simple treats for dessert. Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Rocky Road from How to be a Domestic Goddess, I whipped up these Chocolate Marshmallow Pretzel Bites.
Chocolate Marshmallow Pretzel Bites “Recipe” – makes about 25
- Melt 8oz mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate (Fair Trade, if possible)
- Mix in about 1/2 cup of marshmallows
- Drop onto a pretzel “snap” (square shaped)
- Top with sprinkles or nonpareils
- Let cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving
These little guys are the perfect portion of sweet and salty. They’re great for dessert, afternoon tea, a mid-morning coffee break, or with a glass of something bubbly.