Saturday, July 26, 2008

Polenta gnocchi with pesto

We enjoy homemade pasta around here, and there's no pasta easier than gnocchi. Traditionally made at the end of the month before payday — and lending their name to the tax collectors who steal your paycheck — gnocchi (sing. gnoccho) can be made with any leftover mush-of-starch. Mashed potatoes seem to be most popular in the States, but polenta or wheat are also tasty. Combine leftover starch mush with eggs, salt, and enough flour to make into a dough, roll into balls, and boil two minutes until gnocchi float.

To that end, we brought two cups soy milk combined with two cups lightly-salted water to a boil, turned off the heat, and whisked in two cups polenta meal. Covered, this sat for about thirty minutes to cook. The by-then-cool polenta mush we combined with two eggs and a fair amount of flour, ending up with twice as much dough as we wanted. We rolled out all of the dough into gnocchi, deciding to freeze half of it. (This would have worked, too, if we froze them separated by layers of wax paper. As it is, we are currently defrosting a tub of solid polenta, to re-roll into gnocchi on Monday.) We brought salted and well-oiled water to a boil, and cooked the polenta two minutes until the balls floated.

The blender had burnt out, so the pesto we made by hand. We mashed half a cup pine nuts in the mortar and pestle, and also mashed one garlic clove. These we combined with half a cup good olive oil, a tsp salt, a quarter cup grated parmesan, and half a bunch each of spinach and basil, minced. The pesto at hand, we cooked the gnocchi, draining in a colander set in a ceramic serving bowl, emptied the bowl of the hot water, and then combined the pasta and sauce for a dish that in the U.S. if the height of gourmet.

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