A few days ago we were sitting in an Italian restaurant. My husband ordered his favorite pizza with salami, anchovy and peperoni and I decided for gnocchi. Gnocchi is one of the food I prefer to eat in a restaurant because making it at home is such a time intensive job. And its unique texture is supposed to be very tricky to create. I had never dared to make my own gnocchi till now.
This nice restaurant is located in the center of the old city and surrounded by all those beautiful old style buildings with my beloved high ceilings. In the summer it is wonderful to sit outside the restaurant in the charming front yard. We were lucky enough to get a table under one of those huge chestnuts trees. The food was as usual very good. The pizza was baked in a stone oven. Its dough was perfectly thin and crunchy. My husband was enjoying the pizza with his typical dreamy smile on his face every time when he enjoyed the food very much. My gnocchi came with a tomato mozzarella sauce. I love the unique consistence of gnocchi. It tastes softer than a pasta dough, but still it is firm to the bite. The house made sauce on top of the pizza tasted fruity and remembered me of the tomatoes that matured under the Tuscan sun and which we used to try in Tuscany. We were enjoying the delicious food with a great white wine from a local vineyard, talking about this and that.
After some glasses of wine I suddenly heard myself talking: “Gnocchi is not so difficult to make. I am going to make some myself tomorrow. And, I am not going to make this kind of NORMAL ones. I will stuff them with some great Asian fillings!” My husband looked at me a little bit concerned at first, since he knew I wanted to make gnocchi myself for long time, but dared not. And then I suddenly was talking about to make some fancy-pants stuffed gnocchi! After a short time of suspicion that I was drunk, he got that kind of face when he believed he was listening some kind of blahblahblah from someone. No no no, I was not drunk. But as you know, sometimes the alcohol can make you feel like you are able to accomplish anything. The day after, I got cold feet about my flash of genius. But, the spoken words are like the water that has been spilled, they can never be taken back again. I had to give it a try!
Actually I made two versions of the stuffed gnocchi. The first time the filling was similar to the mincemeat filling of pot stickers. I liked the savory taste very much. However, the combination of the meat filling and the coconut peanuts cream was a little bit too heavy for the late summer. I would save it for the coming winter as a comfort food for the cold days. So, I decided to make another much lighter vegetarian version with mushrooms and rice noodles. It was a hell of work to fill this tiny chopped filling with a quite loose texture into the small dough pieces. But the result rewarded the heavy work. It tasted wonderful! The grilled gnocchi were crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The filling was light and unobtrusive and at the same time gave a taste of the late summer because of the mushrooms. The nutty and fruity taste of the coconut peanut cream sauce was the perfect date for the gnocchi.
My success totally surprised me and now I am even more motivated for further experiments with gnocchi. 😀
Ingredients (4 servings):
For the gnocchi:
500g floury potatoes (cooked with skin the day before)
Extra flour for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
30g ground parmesan
Nutmeg and pepper
For the filling:
10g dried mixed mushrooms
20g rice noodles
A few basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pinch of sugar
6 tablespoons of the mushroom water
Olive oil for frying
For the sesame bread crumbs:
6 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds (ground)
1 pinch of salt
For the peanut-coconut sauce:
100g coconut milk
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cucumber
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon oyster sauce (for vegetarians: take the vegetarian version of oyster sauce or 1 tablespoon of soy sauce instead)
50 ml of water
1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Cook potatoes in salt water the day before, let them cool and keep in the fridge overnight (If you have a potato ricer at home, then you don’t need to wait until the day after and just go on with the next steps).
- Before starting with making the gnocchi, first prepare the sauce and the filling. For the sauce: Mix the peanut butter with the water until creamy. Sauté the chopped onion with olive oil in a pan and then stir-fry the curry powder and cucumber briefly with the onion together. Pour in the coconut milk and bring it to boil. Put the peanut butter with the remaining ingredients into the pan, bring to boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat.
- For the filling: Soak the mushrooms in cold water for an hour (keep some mushroom water for later). Put the glass noodles in hot water and soak for 5 minutes and then rinse with cold water, drain in a colander. Mix all the filling ingredients (except the mushroom water and the olive oil) in a blender and puree. Heat the oil in a pan and stir-fry the mixture shortly, add the mushroom water and simmer for a few minutes until the water is gone. Set aside for chilling.
- Now the sesame crumbs: Melt the butter in a pan. Stir in bread crumbs and sesame seeds until golden brown. Set aside for chilling.
- Take the potatoes out of the refrigerator and peal. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher and a fork to get a fine and flaky lump.
- Give the flour and Parmesan over the potatoes, season with salt and nutmeg. Mix these together with your fingers.
- Whisk the eggs and mix in the potato lump. Form it to a smooth dough (Note: don’t knead it too strong, otherwise the dough will be too soft). If you need it, take more flour and mix well until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.
- Cut the dough in half and shape each portion into a long, thin roll (diameter of approx. 3cm). Cut the roll with help of a spatula into small pieces (about 3cm long). Take one of them in your hands and form it to a ball and then flatten it. Give a teaspoon of the filling on the dough sheet and then close it. Bring the ball in the form of a gnocchi and gently press with a fork. Process all the dough pieces in the same way.
- Boil water with salt in a big pot and add the gnocchi. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to prevent dumplings sitting on the ground. Once the gnocchi float to the surface, take them out of the water and drain.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the drained gnocchi and fry both sides until golden brown. Serve with the sauce and the sesame crumbs.