I just love cooking with friends. I think it is a real bonding experience. We talk, we laugh, and we eat delicious foods too. I highly recommend cooking with friends to everyone.
We had yet another fun evening with our gnocchi making class. Some of my friends from church all came over to learn how to make gnocchi and we all had a great time. We made two kinds – plain and pumpkin. Gnocchi are Italian potato dumplings. You can serve them with a wide variety of sauces, just like you would serve with pasta. After the gnocchi were made, we turned the class into a feast. The girls were in charge of the kitchen for the class, then we allowed the boys to join us once everything was cooked and we all feasted together.
Let the creations begin. My beautiful Sous Chefs are ready to go. We have from left to right, Priscilla, Wendy, Lauren and Amy.
There are many regions that lay claim to the origins of gnocchi. While they are generally associated with northern Italy, the truth is that these dumplings are found all over the peninsula and in many diverse forms, made with a variety of base ingredients depending on where they come from: flour, corn meal, semolina, bread, chestnut flour, ricotta, or vegetables—from pumpkin to spinach to the classic potato. Every region in Italy, especially in the north, has its own gnocchi variation and its own specific sauce or serving style. In Piedmont or Lombardy, you might find potato gnocchi tossed in a simple dressing of butter and Parmesan, or in a creamy, cheesy sauce passed under a grill to brown the top before serving. In Verona, potato gnocchi is traditionally served in a tomato sauce—it’s a dish associated with Carnival that goes as far back as the 1500s.
The word gnocchi is thought to come from nocca, which means knuckles, or from the Lombard word knohha, which means knot (such as wood knot) or walnut—all words that imply the small, tight, rounded shape of gnocchi that we know today.
The most famous potato gnocchi that are known and loved world-wide date back to the sixteenth or, more likely, seventeenth century—well after Spanish explorers brought potatoes from South America and introduced them to Italian kitchens.
Before everyone arrived, I made a big batch of mashed potatoes and chilled them in the fridge until we were ready to use them. The mashed potatoes were the base of our recipes. We mixed the mashed together with flour and eggs, and pumpkin. And that was it for the dumplings.
Amy is measuring out the flour.
Wendy and Lauren are mixing it all together.
Basic Gnocchi Recipe
1 1/2 cups cooked mashed potatoes
2 cups flour
For the pumpkin gnocchi, we added 1 cup of pumpkin puree, and added about 1 more cup of flour as well. We also added about 1 TBSP of fresh chopped sage.
Combine everything together until it forms into a ball. Then break off equal portions and rollout into a log. Priscilla is making the gnocchi like her grandmother showed her.
Cut the dough into small pieces, about 1 inch in size. If you want to get fancy, you can shape the gnocchi with a gnocchi maker or a fork. This will give each piece little ridges that will help hold the sauce, to add more flavor. Priscilla brought her gnocchi maker and we shaped all the gnocchi.
Priscilla is shaping the gnocchi and Wendy is watching and learning in awe.
We let the gnocchi set while we made our sauce. I found a delicious recipe for a mushroom and bacon cream sauce. We all taste tested it and we all agreed it was a perfect choice and complimented our gnocchi very nicely. We made a lot of sauce because we had a lot of gnocchi.
Mushroom Bacon Cream Sauce
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
1 heaping TBSP garlic
1 small container of mushrooms, sliced
2 TBPS butter
salt & pepper tot taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 TBSP fresh sage, chiffonade or cut into very thin strips
Cook the bacon first.
Wendy is having way to much fun with the bacon.
When the bacon is mostly cooked, add the butter, mushrooms, cream, salt & pepper and fresh sage and combine well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Amy says the mushrooms are ready. I think Wendy is excited about that. 🙂
We all took turns cooking and doing our part.
Now it is time to start cooking the gnocchi. We started out by sauteeing them in butter and oil for just a couple of minutes. We did these in batches to make sure they were not overcrowded or sticking together.
Once we let the gnocchi cook for a bit in the butter, it was time to start the boil. We carefully removed all the gnocchi from the pan and placed them on a cookie sheet. Then we filled the pot with water and brought it to a full, rapid boil. Once the water was boiling, we added the gnocchi in small batches. The boil only takes a few minutes. The uncooked gnocchi will sink, and then will rise to the surface once they are cooked and ready to be removed. Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked.
Once the gnocchi are cooked, add the sauce. You can toss it all together or you can serve it with the sauce on top. We chose to serve the sauce on top, then added Parmigiano cheese and fresh chopped parsley. We tossed up a simple salad and made a balsamic vinaigrette, grilled some chicken and sausage and warmed up some garlic rosemary bread and made some dipping sauce. And our simple, rustic Italian feast was ready. !Mangia!
We invited the boys to join us and we all dined outside, al fresco on the deck, since the weather was so beautiful.
After a fun day in the kitchen, we decided we needed a good picture of the Chef and her Sous Chefs. We all had so much fun and are already working on another fun cooking class for another time.
Good fun, good food and great friends. It doesn’t get much better than this. Life is definitely good.
Stay safe and stay well Everyone. Have as much fun as you can make the most of all your days. ‘Til next time.