Daring Kitchen Challenge
When I first learned about The Daring Kitchen, I was excited to join a group that would provide me with monthly culinary inspiration. This month’s assignment (and my very first with TDK) was created by Steph from Stephfood, our Daring Cooks’ July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with! Steph also encouraged us to make noodles that celebrated our culinary heritage.
In that I had just done quite a bit of pastamaking as part of the Feast of the Seven Boars (along with doughs of all kinds for all of my potsticker exploits), I asked Steph if gnocchi were legal within the strict rules of the challenge. She explained that they were and off I went on a journey into dumpling majesty on a whole new level.
I had decided to take the plunge and make not one, but four different types of gnocchi. I’d start with the classic potato version, and turned to the recipe from Frankie’s Sputino that had seemed almost ethereal upon my first reading of their cookbook (nay, their handbook). My first foray into traditional potato gnocchi had to be their recipe, passed to them from Frank Falcinelli’s grandmother. I decided to bake mine off “alla Sorrentina,” a style celebrating Sorrento and the dishes of Neapolitana (a la southern Italy). The sauce is a simple combination of bright tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil topped with fresh milk mozzarella. What better way to dress these revered gnocchi than the colors of the Italian flag?
But what of the gnocchi that don’t use potatoes as the base? How about the Roman versions that are made with semolina, reminiscent of polenta? These babies are cut with a mold and then baked with a bit of cheese – because this was The Daring Kitchen, though, I decided to take things a step further and top them with cavolo nero sauteed in garlic and savory Sicilian sausage. And some sharp provolone, saltier and far more complex than the ordinary sliced version in the deli, grated over the top and then broiled to a glorious finish. Hell yes.
While we were off the potato kick, I wanted to celebrate a favorite of mine from my time in Siena – the marvelous malfatti. More like a ravioli with not a bit of pasta, this spinach and ricotta gnocchi is a bit fussy to make but well worth it. Cutting into one is like diving into a pillow of creamy lavishness, with only a bit of unctuous bolognese to round out the flavors. A total dream – of course they had to be included in the feast.
To round things off, what about something truly daring – a potato gnocchi made with the disconcerting addition of instant potato flakes. Sure, the idea of no boiling, peeling or mashing sounded sexy, but would they taste good? After I bolstered the dough with chanterelle-flavored stock, these little guys were perfection. Who could have known they’d be such a success.
At the close of the feast, I gazed around at the smiling faces of my guests, bellies full of gnocchi majesty, and I was assured of the goodness of a challenge or two in this crazy life. I’m leaving this ever so ready for the next kitchen adventure passed my way – come on, I dare ya to put me to work ;)