Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Instant Success

Gnocchi Freschi di Menta e Ricotta Salata, con Peperoni Rossi
Fresh Gnocchi with Mint and Salted Ricotta Cheese, with Red Peppers

Everybody like a crazy professor, right? The kind with the crazed look in his eyes that comes up with kooky ideas to change the world?  Well I sure hope so... because that's how I was this evening! I got this crazy notion, that I could replace the flour in the traditional recipe for gnocchi, with instant mashed potato powder. Sure- why not, right? And then I realized... hey! If I do that- then I already have the potatoes in there too! Cool! And this is the monster that was born of my invention...

Ok- so it is instant mash...calm down! It is not something nasty and artificial, it is just dried potatoes that are ground into flakes or powder. What we are going to do, is to empty 3/4 of a packet into a bowl and to add half a finely grated zucchini. Knead the zucchini and the potato together until it becomes fairly well incorporated. Now add 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of grated salted ricotta cheese and 2 tablespoons each of finely chopped mint and finely chopped parsley. Grate with nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and knead together into a relatively firm dough. Not too firm mind- we want to have light and fluffy gnocchi after all.

Once the dough is firm enough, roll it out into lengths and then cut slices of about 1" in size off. Roll them into a slightly oval shape and then press them into the hollow of a fork to give them the typical ridged pattern. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour... you are going to have to be brave and to use your own judgement! As a rule, you are better off with dough that it a little less firm than the store-bought variety. The most import thing though with gnocchi, is to cook them in slightly simmering but not boiling water. Drop them in gently and let them cook until they float to the surface. I know the rule is that once they float they are done, but I tasted one and it still tasted a little pasty. Probably due to the mashed potato- which of course takes a little time to cook. In all, I had them in for maybe 2 minutes longer than the time it took for them to float, until they were light and juicy and fluffy.

Whilst the gnocchi were cooking, I tossed a couple of slices of zucchini and strips of red bell pepper in a little olive oil and crushed garlic until they became golden and brown. Once the gnocchi were ready, I added a little olive oil, a little bit more freshly ground nutmeg and a little pepper and gently coated them all before serving. I garnished with fresh mint leaves and coarsely grated salted ricotta and serve it with a white Corvo... and indeed, I would describe this evenings experiment as an instant success!

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