Making Gnocchi!

The finished product: gnocchi with pea pesto

The finished product: gnocchi with pea pesto

Earlier this month I attended a gnocchi-making class at the Italian Cultural Center in Springfield. I was so excited to take my first cooking class as an adult and pleased that it was only $30 for a hands-on class. It’s pretty hard to find affordable, hands-on cooking classes around here so this was a real steal and the money supports the ICC’s programs and events – a win-win. The class itself was great, though unfortunately I was paired up with a terrible partner, but that’s a story for another time. I ended up finding some friends from my Italian language class to sit with as the class went on, so it all worked out in the end.

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Waiting for class to begin!

There were around 50 people in attendance, ranging from children to college students to grandparents. We were seated four to a table, with two people sharing a mixing bowl and ingredients. The tables were decked out in red and green tablecloths for a festive Italian touch.

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The secrets of delicious gnocchi lie within…

The ICC’s gift shop was open, selling Italian-themed gifts (magnets, stickers, aprons, etc.) and there was also a concessions stand with snacks and beverages including glasses and half carafes of wine (wish I had brought cash with me!).

One of the ICC’s board members introduced our teacher, Anne Marie, and the class got started. Anne Marie went over the recipe with us, explaining ingredients and methods. She said that after years of making gnocchi, often for large crowds, she switched from regular potatoes to instant potatoes after finding that the instant potato gnocchi consistently won taste tests.

After we went over the recipe, we went to the back room one table at a time to pick up our ingredients: potatoes, flour, egg, salt, nutmeg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and water. All the ingredients were laid out in large bowls with the quantities listed on the tablecloth so we didn’t have to refer to our recipe, making the process quick and easy.

When I got back to the table, it was time to mix and knead. We mixed with a fork and kneaded by hand. The teacher came around to check everyone’s dough. Anne Marie suggested we add a couple of sprinkles of water, after which our dough came together easily.

As is the way with dough in general, getting the right consistency for gnocchi requires experience and practice. Having never made gnocchi before, I didn’t know exactly what the dough should feel like, so I relied on Anne Marie’s instructions. After kneading, we rolled the dough into ropes about half an inch wide and several inches long. Pinching a section between my forefinger and thumb, I sliced half-inch pieces, then rolled each individual piece along the tines on the back of a fork to create the quintessential gnocchi shape. As I made the gnocchi, I sprinkled it with flour to prevent sticking and put it in my to-go box.

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Gnocchi in-the-making!

When I got home, I spread the gnocchi out in an even layer on a baking sheet and popped it in the freezer for a half hour. Once the gnocchi was frozen, I put it in a zip-top bag in the freezer to save for later. You should always freeze homemade gnocchi and pasta unless you intend to use it immediately. To cook gnocchi after freezing, you can put it directly into boiling water and wait for it to rise to the top; once risen cook for 3-4 minutes and serve with your favorite sauce. I didn’t want a heavy sauce to overpower the delicate, light gnocchi so I whipped up an easy springtime favorite: pea pesto. Nick (and I) really enjoyed the gnocchi which is a personal triumph since Nick has always said that he doesn’t like gnocchi. Score one for Noelle!

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I’m not going to share the gnocchi recipe here, so as to encourage Western Mass folks to seek out Anne Marie’s class, but good gnocchi recipes should be easy to find online or in your favorite Italian cookbook. If you have any questions about gnocchi, please feel free to contact me. Making gnocchi or pasta is a great activity to share with friends and family as “many hands make light work” and it allows for plenty of time to chat and catch up.

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