This is my third month participating in the #endurancefoodies blog carnival. What is that, you ask? Well, Jason from Cook Train Eat Race is bringing together athletes who like to cook and eat to share recipes each month, with a theme to our postings. This month’s theme? A two-coloured palette. Yep. Make a meal in two colours.
My gut reaction to the challenge was to bust out a beautiful green-and-white salad. To feature as many delicious leafy greens as possible, and some wonderful cheese and nuts, and avocado. And to top with a simple easy balsamic vinaigrette. But I then thought “why not showcase something different, something that takes a bit more commitment to the kitchen, but something extremely worth the invested time.” A perfect chance to introduce homemade gnocchi – my red and white meal.
Before we get into gnocchi, I want to share some context with you. For years and years risotto to me was a turn off. It all seemed too complicated. And it also seemed like an invitation to consume stodge. Just. Not. Interested. DH was always telling me risotto could be delicious, it could be the perfect way to use up a leftover roast chicken. But I could only think of bad restaurant risotto experiences that I had had – gloopy, stodgy, and just not my type of food. Or the one time I made it at home – an uber complicated Locatelli recipe that was fantastic, but by no means something I would ever replicate on any old day. Then one day, for some reason, I relented. I decided to try my hand at making a simple, uncomplicated, fresh and non-stodgy risotto. And suddenly my aversion to risotto disappeared. I learned that if I made my own, I could produce a simple, delicious, nutritious and flavourful risotto WITHOUT THE SENSE OF STODGE.
Fast forward to gnocchi. Gnocchi to me always meant “potato pasta bombs that sit heavy in the stomach” – aka STODGE. Probably because the gnocchi memory that sticks out for me the most is in New York’s Little Italy, back when DH and I had just started dating and went on a weekend trip, and headed to Little Italy for a meal. He had breaded mozzarella bombs in his stomach – I had gnocchi bombs in mine. What a bad food memory! So me and gnocchi? Again… Just. Not. Interested.
But then I saw this post from Ideas In Food. You may remember me evangelising Ideas In Food and how Alex and Aki have totally transformed my kitchen into a gluten free paradise with their What IiF flour blend. I *love* the Ideas In Food site. And if Alex & Aki said that gnocchi could be fluffy and light and pillowy – even gluten free – I figured it was worth a shot.
This recipe is time consuming insofar as it requires making the gnocchi “dough” and then rolling it out. But once made, there is enough for about 6 hungry people (we have portions now in our freezer). One thing that is a must for this recipe is a potato ricer (or Alex and Aki suggest a food mill, but I have no idea what that is – fortunately I do have a ricer at home that sits in our window as kitchen decoration – mostly…) A ricer is a must because unlike mashing the potato, with a ricer the starch stays (mostly) intact. Meaning that the potatoes are not gummy, but fluffy. Which I think is the real difference in this recipe.
1150 grams peeled potatoes
9 grams sea salt (about a teaspoon and a quarter)
2 large egg yolks
160 grams flour (I use the What IiF blend I make at home, but wheat flour will work just fine here)
60 grams grated parmesan
Peel and boil the potatoes until cooked through. The potatoes need to be cooked through to pass through the ricer easily. When you drain the potatoes, spread them out onto kitchen towels to dry off completely – you don’t want the water in this recipe. Again, I think this is another trick to avoid gummy stodginess.
Once you rice all of the potatoes into a big bowl, add the egg yolks and cut them into the potatoes (just like you cut butter into flour for pastry making), mixing the yolks thoroughly into the potato. Sprinkle the flour and salt onto the potatoes and stir through. Then add the parmesan and stir through. You will wind up with a loose light dough.
Break the dough into four pieces, and roll these pieces out like logs / giant long tootsie rolls. The roll should be about 2 inches wide—this is the length of your gnocchi. Cut off pieces approximately 1 inch wide (no more than an inch – this is the width of your gnocchi). Then take the little cut piece of gnocchi and shape it. The four logs make LOADS of gnocchi.
We found that this recipe makes main course serving size for four people, plus enough for leftovers for 2-3 people eating main course sized meals.
By definition, this is a meal full of starchy carbohydrates. Over time I have learned that my body loves meals full of starchy carbohydrates BEFORE very intensive training sessions. So for example, this meal works really well for me if I have it the evening before a hard and intense morning bike trainer session (I tend to train in the morning with very little food beforehand). My body also likes starchy carbohydrates following long endurance activities. So if I finish a long bike ride and have an egg right after (for the protein) then about an hour or so later this gnocchi with tomato sauce, plus a big green salad, is a really nice lunch.
It is interesting for me to pay attention to what food works for me with the training patterns that I have. Have you ever tried the same, to vary your food choices according to your training plans and performance aims?
As you can see from the video above (should have been a Vine, Vine crashed when I was uploading it, hello YouTube) to serve the gnocchi in red sauce, first I pan friend the gnocchi in butter. Then I heated some red sauce and added the gnocchi in to finish.
Red sauce is easy easy easy to make. Basically, to make a whole lot of sauce (enough for a meal for four, and then for two more single size portions for the freezer / leftovers) you need four 400g cans (small cans not the gigantic 28 ounce cans they sell in the US, but the smaller 12-14 ounce cans) of whole peeled tomatoes. Open and drain the tomatoes in a sieve over a bowl (don’t toss the juice – you need it). Chop up one small onion diced finely, and a few cloves of garlic. Heat olive oil in a pan, and the sautee the onions / garlic until semi-transparent (I always add some salt in this stage as I had heard that salt stops burning from happening – who knows if that is true?). Then add the tomatoes (not the reserved juice) and break them up and stir them to the point that the liquid has evaporated and they are kind of sticky on the bottom of the pan. Add a half a glass of red wine (what you like to drink – never cook with wine you wouldn’t drink) to deglaze the tomatoes from the pan. The wine also adds a richness to the sauce. Once loosened off the pan and like a tomato paste, add the reserved tomato juice (from when you drained the tomatoes) and about a teaspoon of oregano and simmer for another 10 minutes or so. To finish the sauce, tear up and add some fresh basil before serving.
Now, for the leftover gnocchi. We have used the leftovers to serve as a side dish with a roast – we pan fried in butter but did not finish them in sauce. We have also served as plain gnocchi in parmesan – a decadent carb heavy meal – with a giant salad. And we have some in the freezer for emergency meals (the tomato sauce above can be scaled back to sauce for one, using only one can of tomatoes and eliminating the draining phase). Anyway, you will find that however many you make they won’t stick around too long – as they are JUST SO GOOD.
Seriously. This is a great recipe. I am now a gnocchi convert – but of course, only if I make them!
April Endurance Foodies Participants
Check out the following posts and participants for this month’s #endurancefoodies challenge. I have loved checking out the recipes and have definitely found some new people to add to my blog reader through the monthly challenges. Enjoy, happy cooking, and bon appetit!
Jason – Orange And Green – Cook Train Eat Race
Jen – Purple And Green – Miles, Muscles And Mommyhood
Brittany – Green And Yellow – The Fit Formula
Andrea – Yellow And White – LA Easy Meals
Amanda – Green And White – Run To The Finish
Joanna – Green And Orange – Living Mint Green
Mia Rommel – Red And Green – Diets Are Crap
Adrienne – Red And Yellow – Six Kick Switch
Lindsey – Red And Tan – Cotter Crunch