Life List #104: Learn to make gnocchi.
Fall Gnocchi Making Class at The Chopping Block in Chicago, Illinois.
Gnocchi are little magical puffs of Italian goodness.
I mean, why would anyone in their right mind ever choose regular old pasta, which is just basically flour when they could have pasta made with potato? Or cheese? Quite possibly two of the most amazing things ever invented? Am I right?
I can’t tell you the first time I ever ate gnocchi, but I can tell you I eat it often. I ate it at least twice while admiring the canals of Venice(I tried to confirm this by going through my photos, but can you believe that on my first trip to Europe I hardly took any food photos? What has become of me?). It is my go-to dish at Frasca, the wine and pizza bar on the corner of my block. Heck, it is my go-to dish (along with eggplant parmesan) at any Italian restaurant. I even buy it frozen from Whole Foods for a quick little meal (and, yes, yes frozen-section gnocchi tastes just as good as it sounds).
But making gnocchi was another story. It seemed hard. I mean, gnocchi have groove marks in them. How do you even cook a groove mark into something? And they seem like they’d be very easy to screw up. I could only assume that if I ever had tried to make them they’d be little un-magical rocks of un-goodness. Or they’d completely fall apart. Like how every time I try to make an egg of any sort it turns out scrambled. It would be scrambled gnocchi.
Since I’ve been home I’ve been determined to fill my time with worthwhile activities. I mean, I’m not trying to forge a life for myself solely based on travel. I’m trying to forge a life for myself where I’m doing things I love and that I’ve always wanted to do, no matter what those things may be. And I love to cook. And I love to eat gnocchi. So, when I saw that The Chopping Block was offering a gnocchi-making class, I signed right up.
In the class, we made three different types of gnocchi: a parmesan and ricotta gnocchi with rosemary brown butter sauce, baked semolina cakes with fontina cheese, and a potato gnocchi with tomato cream sauce. We learned how to properly chop and onion (who knew?). We learned how to brown butter. But, most importantly, we learned some secrets to making sure our little dumplings turned out light and we learned how to shape them and cut them. And how to get the cute little grooves and even cuter little dimples that give gnocchi their signature look.
After about two hours, the class sat down to enjoy our culinary results. And, ohmygod were they tasty. I think everyone was most surprised by the semolina cakes. I, for one, had never heard of that kind of gnocchi before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was so creamy and moist and you really can’t go wrong with anything coated in broiled cheese. And the brown butter sauce on the ricotta dumplings was ridiculous. Who knew that such a simple sauce could add so much to a dish? I’m going to start brown-butter-saucing everything. Everything. And the potato gnocchi were pillowing and delicious, even if the sauce turned out to be slightly too spicy.
I think it’s safe to say I never have to rely on a bag of frozen gnocchi again. Unless, of course, it’s because I made a huge batch of these babies to freeze for later.
Learn to make gnocchi was #104 on my life list.