I have been a very grumpy mummy this week. I got a cold over the long weekend, because apparently having children means having a cold once every other month for eight years. Then I had lots of work, and the usual kid things, and no running because of the cold, and all that culminated in a very, very cranky lady. By this morning I looked a fright and acted even worse. Dave kept looking at me sideways, like he was scared that my head was going to rotate 180 degrees or I was going to go totally psycho. I’m not complaining (well, kind of I am) because I know people all over the world have it worse than a head cold and having to go to work and not getting to go running. I mean, I know it is crazy. But crazy or not, I was really cranky this morning. Like, profoundly.
Some hot tea, a nap and watching trashy TV for an hour just about cured me. By this afternoon I was beginning to feel semi-human again. I went out into the garden, the clouds parted for a split second, a little ray of sunshine hit my skin and I actually felt good and started to think about something nice to make for dinner that I could do with the kids and try to have some fun, instead of just being mommy from hell, as I have been for three days.
I have always had this very romantic idea about gnocchi. I picture some sweet Italian grandma rolling them out with her strong, thick hands. I see her rolling them out on an ancient wooden table in a country Italian kitchen, windows open to the Tuscan countryside, sun streaming in the windows, goats on the hillside. I see her old, capable hands rolling tiny gnocchi that make a perfect, light, little first course to start a simple, rustic meal. Of course, I’ve never yet been to Italy (can’t stop going back to Spain), so this scene exists entirely in my imagination.
The reality of my experience with gnocchi is most often, I eat them, and they fall like a lead weight down to the bottom of my stomach. They literally hurl themselves down my gullet and sit down there, lodged like a fishing weight lost at the bottom of the river. I have rarely had good ones, the exceptions being the ones made by Wendy Brucker and these, which we make at home and adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin. These little gnocchi are chewy and rich, but not lead weights in the heaviness department. The secret is not to overwork the dough. First, you cut some flour and ricotta together with two knives. Then you add two eggs and mix until the dough just holds together. Knead it once or twice, then cut into 4 pieces. Each of the pieces is rolled out into a tube. Cut off the little gnocchi, have your six year old press a fork into them, and you have a tasty little morsel. They don’t need to look perfect. Boil them in salted water and then I like to toss them in a hot pan with brown butter. Eat with fava beans, peas, parmesan, herbs or just plain.
These gnocchi totally lifted me out of my funk. They were a fun project with the kids. While we were making them, I noticed that the light streaming in from the garden was illuminating them, and the table was so beautiful, it was stunning. I started taking pictures. I took a lot of pictures. Dave, still a little scared about the whole possibility that I might go off the deep end at any moment, volunteered to take the kids to swim practice. I got an hour at home, with my camera and the garden and the perfect light and the tender little nuggets of dough. It was so nice, it almost felt imaginary, but then they came home, we had dinner and all was well.
|Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter|
- 2 large eggs, whisked together in a small bowl
- 2 cups all purpose flour, plus a little more for dusting
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta
- 1 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 4 TBLS butter
- parmesan, to sprinkle
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Using two butter knives, mix in the ricotta.
- When the ricotta and flour are combined, add the egg.
- Mix until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.
- Take out of the bowl, knead once or twice until the ball of dough just holds together.
- Cut into 4 pieces.
- Roll each piece into a 3/4″ wide rope.
- Cut the ropes into 1″ long pieces. If the rope is sticking, sprinkle a little flour.
- Try not to add too much flour as you go.
- Press each piece gently with the tines of a fork.
- Boil in salted water.
- Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium high heat until it is golden brown and sizzling.
- When the gnocchi float, cook another minute and taste to make sure they are cooked through. They may need another minute or two.
- Remove with a slotted spoon to the saute pan with the hot brown butter.
- Saute over medium high heat and toss the gnocchi to coat with the butter.
- Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.