Spectacularly Ugly Gnocchi

I’ve been getting a lot of my kitchen inspiration from Tasty lately, probably because they’re constantly showing up on my Facebook dash. In an effort to widen my online cooking exposure, I subscribed to a few other feeds today; if anybody has any in particular that they’d recommend, do drop me a line!

Anyway, the one that I tried over the weekend was Easy Homemade Gnocci. I have to say, this dish was anything but easy. It was disaster after disaster, really. I don’t know how much of that was the fault of the recipe and how much of it was my own, but nothing seemed to go right.

First of all, I prepared the potatoes exactly the same way as the video showed, but my mashed potatoes ended up being a gluey mess. They were either too moist to start or I should have prepared them differently; they definitely weren’t overcooked, since the center of the larger ones were still a little raw (I discarded those pieces). After perusing the video comments, I learned that some people bake their potatoes instead of boiling them to prevent excess moisture. Also, many people recommend a potato ricer instead of a masher, as it keeps the potatoes from turning gluey. As a bonus, if you cut the unpeeled potato in half and press it through the ricer, you don’t even have to peel anything — it kind of works like a giant garlic press or a modified of food mill.

My homemade gnocci served with baked herbed chicken thighs and corn.

I’m pretty sure that the potatoes were too moist, but I think they were also too large. The recipe calls for 3 to 4 small or medium russet potatoes, but that’s very subjective. Since vegetables can come in all different sizes, I much prefer a measurement by weight or at least by volume, as I’ve talked about before. Due to the moisture, I had to use twice as much flour as the recipe calls for just to get the dough even close to firm enough — and I think I really could have used more. I’d read online that too much flour can make the gnocci heavy and stodgy, and I was trying to avoid that… I don’t think I succeeded. The gnocci that I made did not hold their shape for long after forming and were much too floppy for the fork method to work at all. I made the mistake of letting the noodles touch before boiling them and they just congealed back into a large mass of dough, so I had to form them again. The dough was so stretchy that they didn’t keep their shape in the water.

In the end, I liked the flavour of the gnocci fried up in butter and sage, even if the pasta was misshapen and stodgy. I think I’d like to try this recipe again with modifications until I get it right. For that reason, I don’t think that this recipe is an easy beginner dish — I think that the original article misrepresented it as such. But it could eventually be quite nice, with practice. Perhaps I can find an Italian nonna who is willing to teach me the finer points of this dish, if only to keep me from massacring a tradition so badly next time.

Simmered Boiled Meat Sauce Pasta

I follow Tasty Japan on Facebook, and this video popped up yesterday:

I thought it looked like a good weeknight meal, so long as I started it as soon as the kids got home (it requires simmering on low heat for two hours). I ran it through Google Translate and used the recipe for, as it called it, “simmered boiled meat pasta”. I had to laugh at how bad bad Internet translations can be — among other things, this one instructed me to “add red wine to strengthen the fire, fry for 2-3 minutes and fly alcohol”. Granted, the whole reason I used the program is because my paltry Japanese skills aren’t up to translating a recipe, so who am I to judge? I managed to make a really delicious dinner anyway.

If you don’t have the patience Google Translate, check out the original recipe for Ragu Bolognese over on the English version of Tasty, which was posted back in May. Of course I found that version only after I’d made my dinner, but somehow I didn’t manage to mess it up. It has been pointed out online that this recipe is almost identical to Gennaro Contaldo’s Classic Italian Ragu Bolognese, and after watching both videos I have to agree. Although now that I’ve Googled “how to make a bolognese ragu”, all of the recipes are very similar, which stands to reason. I think it’s just because it’s a very classic, well-known dish.

As usual, I had to make a few changes/adjustments to make it work with what I had on hand. My carrot ended up being about 225g, so I used that much celery as well, since some of my homegrown celery stalks were a bit spindly. I also used equal weights of bacon instead of pancetta, since I had bacon on hand and they are very similar anyway. I also used fettuccine instead of tagliatelle, since the grocery store I was shopping at didn’t have tagliatelle. All that being said, I do think that I will be making this recipe again in the future!