Homemade Gnocchi & Quality Time

When Britta, my cousin, comes to town there is always a fun time to be had. She is one of the biggest influences in my life, a cheerleader for my success and a mentor. Growing up together she was like a sister; now she's a best friend. Britta is also the owner of Private Palate which she started herself about 9 years ago. She is a brilliant business woman with passion and drive for days. It has been such a privilege to see how much Private Palate has grown, now expanding into 4 different states (soon to be 5!). Over the past 8 years I have worked with/for Britta helping her cater events and shooting food and portraits for her and her business. 3 years ago, after graduating from college, I joined the team as a personal chef. It has been awesome working for Private Palate. I get to cook and shoot food everyday while expanding on my style as a chef and photographer. Its not a job, its a lifestyle. 

Okay, okay, enough about us and more about GNOCCHI!

For today, we wanted to test the gnocchi recipes of Mario Batali and Andrew Carmellini. -Before tonight, Britta and I both felt the same way about gnocchi; Always enjoyable but never order-able (that's a word... right?). But, according to Andrew Carmellini, most people are doing it all wrong (even the Italians). Done right, gnocchi makes you say things like this...

Gnocchi is the reason that I went to Italy; gnocchi is the reason that I became a chef; gnocchi is the reason I’m writing this book. I love gnocchi! Gnocchi would be my last meal if I got to pick; it’s the food I’d want to have if I could only have one. In fact, it’s exactly what I made as survival food when I was trapped at a good friend’s apartment with a bunch of people during a city-slamming snowstorm. Everyone ooh’d and ah’d as the gnocchi bobbed up to the top of the pot. We ate ‘em with freshly grated cheese and canned tomato sauce—then we went outside and made snow angels in the empty streets.

I’ve spent a lifetime finding the best way to make the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi—I’ve been working on it ever since the first time I made this pasta with my aunt, when I was twelve. In the fancy local Italian restaurant I worked in as a teenager, they came frozen in a bag, and we precooked them and then reheated them with sauce. They were flavorless lead sinkers. That’s how they were served everywhere I went, in fact—so that’s how I thought they were supposed to be. I was pretty sure my aunt’s version was just some weirdly delicious home-cooking thing she’d come up with herself. When I went to Italy and had them at the source for the first time, I realized that my aunt had just been cooking Italian-style: gnocchi, cooked correctly, are actually melt-in-your-mouth sublime morsels. Unless they’re made of semolina, gnocchi should be light, airy, smooth and luxurious.
— AndrewCarmellini.com - The Best Gnocchi

Well, you can't argue with passion like that! So, Britta and I had to see what the fuss was all about. It was Batali's recipe vs Carmellini's. We started with Batali whose recipe was pretty straight forward; potatoes, egg, salt and flour - mix, roll, cut, pop, boil and finish in an ice bath. Carmellini upped the ante by adding grated parmigiano-reggiano, olive oil AND melted butter to his dough. While Batali's used the method of boiling the potatoes, Carmellini baked his.

We prepared Batali's gnocchi by frying in butter with sage and finishing with parmigiano-reggiano. OH! my gosh, people! This is why fresh is always better. I can still taste the romantic little morsels in my mouth as I envision myself eating them on top of the Ponte Vecchio, the sun setting, while a handsome Italian man whispers in my ear. *sigh*

Britta and I got so carried away with eating and photographing the first batch that when it came time to try Carmellini's method, his baked potatoes had cooled down and dried out a bit (every recipe we read and every method we watched on YouTube emphasised the point that you should rice and mixed the gnocchi dough while still warm, Ooops!). We went ahead and made them anyways. There was a difference in texture; the cold and dried potato dumpling produced a bit more grit to its bite than the first, but its hard to say why or if this was even worth metioning. Even still, better than any gnocchi I had had in the past. 

If we are being fair, we can't exactly claim a winner in this competition. And I don't know If I would have been able to had we done everything correctly. I am still trying to get past the fact that I have been duped for so many year, thinking gnocchi were only sub-par compared to their cousin, pasta.

If you have the work space and don't mind getting a little messy I extremely urge you to try making gnocchi yourself at home. It is so easy and the results really will make you question why restaurants serve these little pillows of happiness any other way.

Try either recipe yourself and let me know what you think!

Mario Batali

Andrew Carmellini 


Peace, Love & Gnocchi,