The cold, crappy, rainy weather this weekend (PS: I think that groundhog was drunk when he made the prediction for early spring this year – hrmph!) had me craving warm comfort food. I rummaged through my enormous “recipe pile” — recipes and cooking notes written on everything from post-its to gum wrappers — and came across my notes from a pasta-making class I took last year with Dylan Giordan, executive chef of Serafina and Cicchetti. Then the lighbulb in my head went off: GNOCCHI, baby!
Gnocchi is insanely easy to make from scratch. But let me clarify that easy does not necessarily mean quick. Even the easiest recipes take some time and love and gnocchi is no exception. But the process is stress-free and once all the prep work is done, the cooking is a sinch — these tiny pillows cook up in a matter of mere minutes!
There’s no better match for gnocchi than a cream sauce, which is also very, very simple to make from scratch. I opted for a basic bechamel sauce (aka “white sauce”) and brightened it up a bit with Meyer lemons and fresh basil. For some added texture and visual appeal, I threw in some frozen green peas and crispy bits of prosciutto, which also gave the dish the perfect salty bite.
With my new-found love for the art of gnocchi-making, I’d like to try some unique variations like spinach gnocchi, sweet potato gnocchi, or even just adding the lemon zest directly into the gnocchi dough. Whattaya think? Any tips or suggestions?
Homemade gnocchi w/ lemon-basil bechamel sauce
For the gnocchi:
- 1 lb russet potatoes
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the bechamel sauce and prosciutto topping:
- 1.5 cups (12 fl oz) skim milk
- Olive oil
- 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1.5 Tbsp all-purpose flour (Note: To make a roux, you need a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour — it’s best to measure this by weight not volume)
- 2 tsp Meyer lemon zest (a regular lemon works fine for this recipe, but I just love the sweeter flavor of Meyer lemons)
- Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
- Salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped into thin ribbons
- Grated Parmesan for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a fork, pierce holes all over the potatoes. Bake the potatoes until fork tender, approximately 50 minutes to 1 hour.
When potatoes are done, remove from oven and allow to cool just enough so you can handle without burning your hands (the key is to have them remain warm). Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides.
Pass the potatoes through a food mill or ricer.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the egg, salt and half the flour and combine. Gradually add the remaining flour and combine until a dough forms and the texture isn’t too sticky or too dry (you’ll just need to trust your gut instinct and sense of touch ).
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead for about 3-5 minutes. Cut off small chunks of dough and roll into 1-inch thick ropes.
Cut the rope into bite-size pieces, about 1-inch long (approx the length of your index finger from tip to first joint). If you want to get really fancy, you can create little ridges by rolling the pieces along the back of a fork. I don’t have the patience for that!
Place the finished gnocchi pieces in a single layer on a lightly floured baking sheet and store in refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat just until it starts to bubble gently (you don’t want it to come to a full boil).
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add prosciutto. Cook until prosciutto turns crispy, approximately 5 minutes.
Place finished prosciutto onto some paper towels and set aside.
Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil (this will be for cooking the gnocchi). Heat a separate large pan over medium heat. Melt butter and add garlic; stir until garlic softens, approximately 2 minutes.
Add flour and whisk to incorporate. Let the mixture cook for another 1-2 minutes to get rid of the raw flour flavor.
Slowly add the hot milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle boil.
Reduce heat and add lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir to combine and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Remove the gnocchi from the refrigerator. Add salt to the pot of boiling water and add gnocchi in batches (don’t overcrowd the pot!). The gnocchi will let you know when they’re done by rising to the top.
Go back to the pan with the sauce mixture and add frozen peas; stir to combine.
Add basil and stir to combine. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste. Turn off heat.
Using a slotted spoon, fish out the finished gnocchi from boiling water and add to the sauce. Mix to combine.
Top with grated parmesan and reserved crispy prosciuto and serve immediately. Buon appetito!