Friday, September 23, 2011

Easy Tomato-Basil Gnocchi with Rosemary-Olive Oil Sauce

As wonderful as it is when my sons are home from college, there is one disadvantage: there are a lot of things they just don’t like to eat. Now, it’s one thing if someone in your house doesn’t like goat cheese, or juniper berries, or some other semi-exotic ingredient that may be great items but that we all know you can cook scores of things without. I can even live with the fact that one of my sons won’t go near my favorite ingredient, mushrooms. But potatoes? How do you cook without potatoes?

And so, though I miss my sons while they are at school, I was able to console myself by working on something I’d had to put off while they were here: Tomato-Basil Gnocchi with Rosemary Olive Oil Sauce.

Gnocchi (pronounced nyoh-kee) are, of course, tasty little potato dumplings. They’re normally served as a pasta course, though I think they work very well as a side dish.

They are also quite easy to make. The main thing with gnocchi is to limit the amount of moisture that makes its way into the dough; too much moisture can result in either mushy gnocchi (which may be fun to say out loud, but not to eat) or, if you increase the flour to compensate for the moisture, in heavy, unpleasant dumplings. Good gnocchi have a light quality.

Since this recipe includes the somewhat unusual addition of tomato paste into the gnocchi dough, several approaches are taken to address the need to limit moisture:
·         Russet potatoes, which have a moisture content lower than most other potatoes, are used.
·         At two different points in the recipe, the potatoes are set out to let steam off and dry some.
·         The potatoes are baked, not boiled. Baking gives a deeper flavor, and avoids adding more water to the potatoes.

The texture is also controlled here by using a food mill instead of a masher. Mashing is a harsh process that breaks up more of the starch than the food mill does,  resulting in a more starchy dough.

Since these gnocchi are infused with basil and tomato, I opted here for a simple sauce of oil, garlic, rosemary, and a bit of vinegar and salt. Needless to say, feel free to use any sauce you prefer.

This recipe makes 4 servings.

Pierce and bake 2 pounds of russet potatoes in a microwave or for 45-60 minutes in a 400 degree oven until a fork penetrates easily.

While the potatoes are baking, prepare the sauce as follows:

  • Warm ¼ cup of olive oil in a pan. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic, and cook for another minute.
  • Turn off the heat and add the 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary to the olive oil. Stir for another minute.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and stir till combined.
  • Cover the pan till ready to serve. (In the photo, you'll note how Willie, the lord of the manor, oversees my work in the kitchen.)

Cut the baked potatoes in half, then cut each half into 1” pieces. (Unpeeled is ok; the food mill will remove the skin.) Place the sliced potatoes on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet for about ten minutes while they give off steam.

Place the cooled potatoes into a ricer or food mill over a bowl. After putting the potatoes through the ricer or food mill, spread the potatoes out again on the parchment or foil lined baking sheet and let dry for another ten minutes.

Place the potatoes in a bowl, and add the following remaining gnocchi ingredients:  1 egg-substitute egg; 2-1/4 cup AP flour; 1 tablespoon dried basil or 2 – 3 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil; ¼ cup tomato paste; ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Gently mix by hand until combined, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead only until it is smooth, about 1 – 2 minutes.

Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Working one piece at a time, roll each piece out into a dowel shape about ¾” diameter. Cut the dowel into ½” long pieces. Run each piece along the back of a fork to make grooves. (It may be necessary to dip the fork into flour after everyone one or two gnocchis.) Set the pieces aside, and repeat for the remaining dough portions.

Place the gnocchi in boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes; as the pieces rise to the top, remove them with immediately with a slotted spoon and place in bowl.  (Work in two batches to ensure that the gnocchi have enough room to move in the pot.)

When all the gnocchi have been cooked and are in the bowl, add the sauce, toss to coat, and add ¼ pound of grated or finely chopped Fontina or low-fat  mozzarella cheese. Put the mixture back in the pan and heat until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
I hope you enjoy these delicious dumplings as much as I did! If you’d like a cookbook-style version of this recipe, just drop me a line, include your e-mail address, and you’ll have it in no time.

See you next week with another easy, tasty recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. This sounds delicious--and a good way to disguise potatoes if one has to!
    Fortunately our two boys will eat almost anything except beets.

    Happy autumn!


  2. Thanks, Bonnie. Sounds like you have pretty good eaters over there. What better gift can a cook ask for? :-)

  3. i love me some gnocchi. i have a recipe somewhere for ricotta cheese gnocchi and they are fun and easy to make! have you ever used leftover baked potatoes (cold from the night before)? would that work too?


  4. Now you've got me thinking about this, Alaina. I have not used leftover baked potatoes to make gnocchi but I like the idea. Since the moisture content of the day-old potatoes is bound to be lower than the fresh-baked ones, it could result in a gnocchi with even lighter texture. I might give that a try, even if it means baking the potatoes for the purpose and just refrigerating them overnight. If you give it a try before I do, let me know how it turns out. Thanks for a great idea!

  5. I've never tried making this myself... I think because it looks like a lot of work rolling it with a fork... or when I've seen it on TV, they sometimes have some wooden contraption with lines cut into it and they roll and roll... I really should try it, especially with your delicious looking sauce from the photo, because I know my son would love it. And I can't believe your sons don't like potatoes!! Although I am DEFINITELY with your one son who doesn't like mushrooms! Yuck, I hate mushrooms!!! Your son and I will have to stick together.

  6. Thank you,Gloria. Rolling the gnocchi on the fork is really pretty easy. After doing a couple you will get the hang of it. I hope you might give it a try!