Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gnocchi with Gin Pesto

The most useless leftover in the world is mashed potatoes. No one looks in the fridge and says "Mmm! Cold, dried out, old mashed potatoes!" But don't go throwing them out right away. Those sad little taters can be repurposed into a whole delicious meal. It's true!

Gnocchi has been around in many forms for a long time, but potato-based gnocchi came about in the 16th century with the introduction of the potato in Europe. The type of potato used is particularly important. Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes will give you a mealy texture. Other forms of white potato usually result in a more gummy or chewy texture. I always go with Red potatoes. They are a little firmer once cooked and they are delicious!

And pesto, where do I start? Pesto is a simple and delicious sauce all on its own. But one of the best basil pairings often goes unnoticed...gin. That's right, gin. The floral aroma of this spirit really brings out the bold flavor of basil. If you are a little hesitant, go ahead and skip the gin in the pesto. But at least have yourself a little gin martini with this dish and you'll see what I mean.

So next time you have some leftover red-skinned mashed potatoes, don't let them go to waste. Just remember to remove the skins from the mashers before you begin. You can even make a whole bunch of these and freeze them for later use.

Gnocchi with Gin Pesto


1 cup mashed potatoes (make sure these are well seasoned)
2 cups unbleached flour
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan

2 cups fresh basil
1/2 tbsp gin (trust me on this)
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup olive oil (use the good stuff here, guys)
salt and pepper to taste

Let's make the pesto first. In a food processor, combine basil, gin, garlic and 1/2 cup olive oil. Blend until combined well. Add remaining oil and salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Easy right?

Now for the gnocchi. First, set a large pot of water to boil.

In a large bowl, knead all gnocchi ingredients together. (Don't overdo it. Just enough to get all the ingredients combined well.

On a floured surface, shape small portions of dough into 'snakes'. Then cut into 1" pieces. (Or cut smaller for Gnocchicetti.)

If your potatoes get too warm and won't roll properly during this process, pop them in the fridge for a couple minutes.

Make Ahead Tip: If you end up with more than you will eat, this is the time to freeze the gnocchi. Put uncooked pieces in a freezer bag in a single layer and lay flat in the freezer.

Once your dough is all cut up, put gnocchi in boiling water in small batches. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Once they start to float, they are done. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and toss with pesto.

Serve them right away with grated asiago or pecorina romano cheese.

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