Sunday, January 23, 2011

Make sauce, not gnocchi

I tried to make gnocchi once.  It was a class-three disaster (class one being “Oh no, I slightly burned the bottoms of the cookies on the lower rack but the others are perfect” and class five being “Oh no, I made up the recipe for these cookies and they taste like death”).  I had watched Giada de Laurentiis craft the little potato dumplings earlier in the day and I was sure I would have no problems.  Plus, the ingredient list (flour, egg, salt, pepper, one potato) satisfied my cheap and lazy nature. 

When I got to the part where you add ridges to your dumpling using the tines of a fork, Sarah Tobol (my gnocchi-loving roommate) stepped in to help.  It was at this time that we realized there might be a problem. The dough was soft—too soft—and grainy. Where Giada’s gnocchi had looked strong and doughy, ours barely held their shape when handled. Boiling water worsened this situation.  They broke up completely, turning the water cloudy with specks of potato shrapnel swirling around. We scrapped the project and fried the dough up as pancakes. 

Tobol was convinced the failure was on my part.  I have a tendency to follow directions  loosely—however, when she remade the recipe later, she encountered the same problems. We scrapped the project and fried the dough up as pancakes.
I never got far enough in the gnocchi making process to actually make a sauce for the finished product. Now that I buy my gnocchi, I’m all about the sauce.  It begins with brown butter.  Nutty, bubbly, fragrant brown butter.  To this I add walnuts, which toast up in the hot butter and provide crunch to the tender potato bites.
I chose sweet potato for my gnocchi base to add depth and balance to the walnuts… and whole wheat to add balance to the butter.  I’m not reinventing the wheel here, just eating it.

Brown butter walnut sauce (over sweet potato gnocchi)

Put half a stick of unsalted butter (4 tablespoons) in a small sauce pan.  Let it melt and bubble and brown, until it is fragrant and toasty. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of chopped raw walnuts.  Stir to incorporate and heat walnuts through.  Mix in a big pinch salt, a couple of cranks of black pepper, and any herbs you like (I had none fresh on hand, so I added a small pinch of dried thyme). 

Serve over sweetpotato gnocchi and top with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.


  1. yum yum!

    Do you have the ingredients on a plate in picture numero tres? Or is it a tablecloth? Either way, I want to make curtains out of it.

  2. Oh, the gnocchi disaster(s) of 2008. Or was it 2007? Apparently Giancarlo can make gnocchi perfectly. I think you have to be Italian.

    Either way I think it's a big hassle and agree with you. Make the sauce. Yours looks fantastic. Pumpkin gnocchi is also delicious.

    Side note: nice bowl.

  3. Nutty, bubbly, fragrant brown butter.

    What a wonderful phrase. I'm hungry.

  4. This looks so amazing! I'm glad you moved on to sauce and still eat gnocchi despite your trials.