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Old 12-22-2004, 08:32 AM   #1
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Making potato, spinach and other Gnocchi (Part Two)

These dumplings are exteremely difficult to get right. It is one of the few dishes in Italian cuisine which regularly turns out to be quite dreadful, and they can be almost as indegestible as the worst Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon stomach ordnance such as Norfolk Dumplings or steak and kidney pudding, although the smaller caliber of gnocchi and the lack of beef suet gives them somewhat reduced armour piercing capabilities in comparison. It seems strange that of all the many wonderful dishes from Austro-Hungarian cuisine that could have been taken by the northern Italians, they chose this one. Or was it thrust upon them?

For the sake of completeness, I give an original recipe from Ada Boni:


4 1/2 lbs of floury potatos


7 ounces of plain flour

2 egg yolks

Do not peel the potatoes, boil in salted water till soft, peel and mash. Add flour, and
salt to taste, add the eggs and mix to a firm dough.

Break the dough into pieces and form a sausage the thickness of your finger.

Cut to about one inch long.

Press on a grater to make a pattern on the gnocchi [it is supposed to help retain the

Leave them to dry.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook them a few at a time. They are done when
they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon. Dress with melted butter and
parmesan and serve fresh, or cover with a sauce and bake for 1/2 hour.

WARNING! The most likely outcome of this recipe will be tough, dough like bullets
of supreme indigestability. I have attempted this recipe a number of times over the
years, and it has reliably failed to produce anything worth eating on every occasion.



However, you like me, may have at some time had gnocchi that were light and
savoury, and thus be aware that it IS possible to make a tasty dish from them.

It is at times like these that I cheat unresevedly and with great determination.

The secret is not to make gnocchi at all.

I use the recipe given by Beck, Bertholle and Child which is basically to stir dry
potato puree into a choux paste.

First the choux paste:

8 fl oz of water

1 1/2 ounces of butter

a little salt and pepper (and nutmeg)

1 3/4 ounces of flour

2 eggs

Bring the water to the boil, add in the seasoning and butter, melt the butter.

Remove from the heat and pour all the flour in at once, beat vigorously with a
wooden spoon and return to the heat and continue for about two minutes to cook the
flour, until the mix leaves the sides of the pan and forms a mass, beggining to film the
bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and beat in the eggs one by one. (I stick electric
beaters directly into the pan).

When it is all smooth, cover with saran wrap/cling film to prevent a skin forming.

1 lb of potatos

Now DO NOT BOIL the potatos. If you do, you WILL get wet potatos, which will
need more flour, which will toughen the dough, which will..........you get the picture.

MICROWAVE the potatos until done. They will be as dry as you can hope to achieve
done this way. Rice the potatoes and if neccessary put them in a pan and dry them out
a bit more. Mash them smooth without any additional liquid or butter. When you have
a smooth dry compostion, beat it into the choux paste and add some parmesan.

Now roll this out into sausages.

Cut off pieces and to make a pattern on them roll them on a large comb or press them
with a fork.

You do NOT need to buy one of these

I cannot be bothered with all of that, so I just drag the tines of a fork down the length
of the sausage and THEN cut it up. But do as you like.

To cook them, SIMMER them in salted water and drain.

You can serve with butter and sage, cheese, cream&peas&ham, pesto, or bake with
fontina, tomato sauce, sugo, the veal sauce.

This confection should be quite digestible.

But I rarely make it, it is a LOT of effort, particularly when I can make fresh pasta in
the time it takes for the water to boil.

But for those who enjoy punishment:


Substitiute the potato with 1/2 pound of chopped cooked spinach and 6 ounces of
drained ricotta. IGNORE the traditional ways of making this and use my recipe using
choux paste.


Substitute the potato with ricotta and some parmesan, or with up to 4 cheeses.


Substitue butternut or similar type squash. Note that Italian squashes tend to be
sweeter than US ones. Add a little brown sugar , or ratafia if you can afford it.
ALTERNATIVELY, you can make them with sweet potato.


Substitute 1/2 the white flour with wholemeal. Make with the sweet potato for a
complex carbohydrate dish.


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Old 12-22-2004, 01:11 PM   #2
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Thanks for the info Darkstream - and to think I had finally worked up the nerve to try to make gnocchi .... but, Mario makes it look so easy!!!

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Old 12-22-2004, 02:59 PM   #3
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Well, I do not know who Mario is, unless he's this guy with a moustache who used to jump over barrels in an early computer game.

I expect that if you do it all the time, it is easy. All my favourite recipes are, I just make them without having to look up anything.

But I am basically a pasta ascuitta man.

Still..........HAVE A GO MATE!

All you loose is a couple of eggs, a little flour, one pound of spuds and a little self confidence.

And if you get it right, then you can make the decisiion as to whether the effort was worthwhile.
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Old 12-24-2004, 05:20 AM   #4
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Great primer, DS!
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Old 12-24-2004, 05:38 AM   #5
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What a spectacular posting to discover on Christmas Eve!!! I've been waiting for this one, Darkstream, and do thank you sincerely for your kind efforts once more!

A choux paste? Fascinating! I shall give this a whirl for dinner tonight...but I will be certain to have a backup menu also...! And I will happily punish myself over and over until I can get this right, too! Happily willing to forgo the comb gadget, a fork will do just fine for me!

I can easily see that this one is going to require more than a bit of regular practice!

Happiest of holidays, Darkstream! I consider this nothing less than another wonderful gift from you, my friend!
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is Optional.
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Old 12-31-2004, 12:29 PM   #6
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Wow. Thanks for this primer. I have attempted gnocchi in the past and thought perhaps its ickiness was due to some mistake on my part. It is nice to know that better cooks than I have suffered the same fate! I am going to give this a try Darkstream, thanks so much.
You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams
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Old 01-01-2005, 02:16 PM   #7
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Good for you Alix.

Give it a go and let us all know what your think.

I only get to make this knd of stuff about 3 days in the year (with argument), so I do not get a lot of practise.

But, no matter how much better the product becomes, it is still a PIA to make, and not much better, if at all, than real pasta.

The REAL gnocchi (part 1) are actually much better, less difficult, and MUCH healthier.

But horses for courses.
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Old 01-01-2005, 03:29 PM   #8
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I will go take a look for the Part 1...Didn't find it the first time.
You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams
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Old 01-02-2005, 08:47 AM   #9
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Darkstream, in the event I haven't yet made myself completely clear on the issue, allow me to reiterate:

I am your devoted fan!!!

The method here is, indeed, a pain in the neck to make (especially getting the potato dry enough), but it is worth every step and dirty dish to make!!! It also took several failed attempts to understand the recipe's quirks, if you will! (My first two tries resulted in the stomach ordinances you warned us of....but I believe I began to understand on the third attempt!

Then, on the fourth... This was absolutely delicious with a simple browned butter and sage sauce!!!!

I can understand why you make this yourself only a few times a year, but I know your family looks forward to those special days!!

Your earlier gnocchi recipe has become a staple here!!!

As always, my thanks!!
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is Optional.
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Old 01-08-2005, 10:38 AM   #10
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Dear Audeo,

I am flattered at the effect I have had on your family’s diet. What would happen to the
poor souls if I started a series on curry?

Or a pizza - pasta weight loss diet? You would probably loose them through the
cracks in your floor.


Ordnance: pertaining to artillery; mounts, embrassures, and ammunition as well as the
guns themselves (hence Ordnance Survey Map).

Ordinance: an authoritative directive not having the force of law, and therefore probably
best ignored (but carry a big stick with you , just in case).

Hope your "busy" time is drawing to a close without too much dreadfulness this season.


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