I love pasta dishes because of their versatility. Pasta is a great dish to experiment with because of all the variables that go into it. First, you have the pasta itself and its numerous shapes to choose from. Then you have the different types of sauces, tomato based, cream based, with or without meat. Then you have all the different types of add ins like vegetables, meatballs, and cheeses. And lastly you have the option of cooking it on the stove or baking it in the oven. what’s great is you don’t need the best stove at all, in fact a simple hot plate would do fine, that’s is obviously why it is such a popular dish, along with being delicious and filling, of course. I can probably make a different one for every day of the year. It’s also a great one dish meal that can combine almost all of the food groups. I’d usually make my own pasta if I feel really determined. But if you’re using dried pasta, then making the dish is even easier and faster.
I loved this orecchiette dish by Daisy’s World and wanted to take my own spin on it using some of the ingredients found in my farmer’s market. In this dish the slightly bitter bite of rainbow swiss chard and the smoky flavor of the andouille chicken sausage are balanced by the chewy orecchiette and the sweetness of the ricotta.
- Cook orecchiette pasta according to package directions until al dente.
- Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
- In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.
- Add the andouille chicken sausage, warm through if using pre-cooked sausage or cook through if using raw.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic is just fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the swiss chard and cook, stirring often, until just tender, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
- Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir in the ricotta cheese.
- If needed, add in some of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta.
- Season with sea salt and black pepper.
I went to the farmer’s market and found nice rainbow swiss chard. In that same trip, I stopped by Trader Joe’s and picked up their pre-cooked andouille chicken sausage. But by all means, substitute whatever type of greens you prefer. This dish also will taste great if using broccoli rabe, kale, regular swiss chard or even spinach. You can also substitute the andouille chicken sausage with whatever type of meat you’d like. Sweet or spicy italian sausage will also work well. If you’re using raw sausage, just cook it through before you start adding the garlic and the rest of the ingredients.
When you’re draining the pasta, don’t rinse it. Rinsing it will wash away the starch that will help bind the ricotta cheese (or any type of sauce you’re using) to the pasta. When you add the pasta back to the pan, it can get dry if it’s been set aside for too long. This is why you need to reserve the pasta cooking water. It will help moisten the pasta.
Gnocchi – last part! If you haven’t read part 1 yet, check it out here. It’s the basics on how to make the gnocchi dough.
So I assume now that your dough turned out decent enough to be cooked and eaten. Don’t worry if your shape isn’t perfect. As you can see above, I need to master creating the gnocchi shape as well. But looks aside, it’s still tasty! Now – who doesn’t love a good pan fry? No need to boil first and then pan fry. Instead, place the fresh gnocchi directly onto the pan! You’ll get a nice crispy and crunchy exterior. The interior will be soft and chewy. Since gnocchi itself is a bit plain, here it will take up the flavor of the different aromatics, spices and herbs used. We bought chorizo from Murray’s Cheese Shop the day before and wanted to try it in the dish. It added a bit of sweetness, smokiness and ham flavor to the gnocchi. If you have other cured meats, like pancetta, surryano ham, or jamon seranno, on hand, feel free to use those instead! For the gnocchi, you can use about 1/4 of the gnocchi dough (follow the recipe, but do not cook).
- Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the gnocchi in a single layer.
- Cook the gnocchi until they are lightly browned on the bottoms.
- Flip the gnocchi and cook until they are lightly browned on the other side.
- Remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same skillet, heat a bit more olive oil.
- Sauté the shallots, chorizo and garlic.
- Add the gnocchi back into the pan and add in the peas.
- Add cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes and salt to taste.
- Cook for a few more minutes so that the gnocchi is coated and tossed in with the rest of the ingredients.
This is first in a series of two posts about gnocchi. Here, I have the recipe for gnocchi dough. The other two upcoming posts are different variations on how to cook gnocchi.
I’ve always wanted to make gnocchi like a nonna italiana. There are only a few steps to making gnocchi. That said, many things can definitely go wrong. It’s not for the faint of heart. But cooking is experimentation. And if it’s a rainy day, like it was this past Sunday, set some time aside and give it a go. Commit to at least 3 tries- you’ll get better and better!
I apologize that I don’t have any pictures of my process of actually making the gnocchi. I was focusing on getting the dough right that I forgot to stop and take pictures! I’ll definitely have photos next time.
- Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt the water.
- Place the potatoes in the water.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, about 45 minutes.
- Save the potato water.
- Working one potato at a time, remove from pot with a slotted spoon and, without burning yourself, peel the potato as soon as possible.
- While the potato is still hot, create a fluffy potato base by either pushing the peeled potato through a ricer or by using the tines of a fork to scrape down the sides of the potato or by grating it against the fine side of a box grater.
- Repeat these last two steps with the rest of the potatoes and spread the potato base on a cutting board or sheet and let cool, 10 – 15 minutes.
- Create a mound with the potato base and drizzle the beaten egg on top.
- Sprinkle about 3/4 of the flour over the mound.
- Using a large flat spatula, incorporate the egg and flour into the potato base by scraping under the mound and folding.
- After the dough reaches a light crumble consistency, gently knead the dough.
- Add more flour, one small handful at a time, if the dough is still sticky. The dough should feel moist, but not sticky.
- Cut the dough into eighths.
- Roll each section into a log, about the thickness of your thumb and cut into 3/4″ pieces.
- To shape the gnocchi, hold each piece, cut ends out, against the tines of the fork.
- Use your thumb to press in and down the length of the tines.
- The shape should form a light “C” and should capture the indentation impressions of the tines.
- Reheat the potato water. When it comes to a boil, drop gnocchi about 20 – 25 at a time.
- The gnocchi will pop to the top when they’re done, about 3 -4 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon.
- Toss with your favorite sauce.
It is important to work quickly while the potatoes are still hot because the potato base will turn out lighter and fluffier. To peel the potatoes, I hold them in a kitchen towel (fabric towel, not paper) and use a vegetable peeler. Usually with one swipe, you’ll be able to lift up a good chunk of the peel. It should peel off like a wrapper.
A potato ricer is the quickest and easiest way to create the potato base. But nonne italiane have been making gnocchi long before the ricer came about. So using a fork is just fine (although, it’s more tricky). Simply run the tines down the sides of the peeled potatoes. You just want to make sure you create a soft base without lumps. Do not over-mash.
Let the mashed potato base cool adequately. You want to let the steam (and moisture) evaporate before you add flour – otherwise the dough will get sticky – and then you won’t be able to form the gnocchi shape.
My kitchen is small enough as it is. My slow cooker takes up half the space under my sink. And I recently got a bread machine, which now takes up the other half, along with a waffle maker. Among my mix of pots and pans is a new dutch oven I got last month. Alas, I’ve resorted to using my oven as storage. This gets tricky since I actually use my oven for baking pretty often. So it’s a constant shuffle of pots from the oven onto the kitchen floor and back into the oven. A small price to pay for kitchen appliances.
But I still have a lot left on my wish list – like a stand mixture, food processor, and pasta machine. I’ve been okay without the stand mixture. An upside? My arms have gotten stronger from all the mixing I do by hand. The food processor I can do without for the time being. Well, maybe a mini food processor can fit somewhere… But the pasta machine? I love pasta! I’ve made fresh pasta by hand, by rolling the dough out and cutting individual strips with a knife. It gets to be pretty tiring after 12 ounces of individual strips. I needed a machine. Luckily they’re not that large. I’ll have to find space for it, but after this dish, it might just be permanently glued to my counter, ready for use at a moment’s notice. Fresh pasta, its chewiness and doughiness is just so delicious! I think I’ve officially done away with boxed, dried pasta.
I hate letting food go to waste; and, I actually had pesto leftover from when I used it in the Italian ciabatta sandwiches. I also had green zucchini from last week’s Fresh Direct order. What do you do with a mix of leftovers? Throw it all in with pasta! A melange of vegetables and/or meats with some kind of sauce over chewy noodles – you can’t go wrong. I especially love pesto in the springtime. The heat from the cooked pasta and vegetables warm up the pesto and triggers a release of this great vegetal, nutty aroma. Since I don’t have a food processor, I purchase pre-made pesto. Fresh Direct and Whole Foods have great freshly made options. I just try to make sure there’s not too much sodium in it.
-For the Pasta Dough-
- Mound the flour on a flat surface or in a large mixing bowl, create a well in the center and pour in the eggs.
- With a fork, beat together the eggs and start incorporating the flour, starting with the inner rim.
- As the dough starts to pull together, begin kneading the dough by hand. Don’t worry if little scraps of dough do not get incorporated.
- Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it becomes an eggy color, soft and elastic.
- Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and let rest for 10 minutes.
-To Cut the Pasta-
- Divide the dough into eight sections and work with one section at a time and keep the other pieces wrapped up.
- Lightly flatten the piece into a rectangular shape, roll with the pasta machine until you get the desired thickness.
- Then use the machine to cut the pasta into your desired shape.
-For the Assembly-
- Let water in a large pot come to a boil.
- Add in a bit of salt, then add in the pasta.
- Cook for about 4 minutes, until al dente.
- Drain the pasta but reserve some of the pasta water.
- In a pan on medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté the zucchini until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the pesto and stir to mix.
- Transfer the pasta into the zucchini and pesto mixture and toss to coat.
- If the pasta is a bit dry, add in some of the reserved pasta water.
- Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
If I’m making the pasta ahead of time, I separate the individual noodles and allow them to hang dry on a wooden hanger rod. If you just mound all the cut pasta together and allow them to sit there for a while, they will stick to one another and are more likely to form clumps as they’re boiling. If this does happen, I quickly stir them around in the boiling water so they can get the chance to separate.
I don’t rinse pasta under water after it’s been cooked. Running water washes away starch that’s on the surface of the pasta. And the starch is what allows the sauce to bind to the pasta.