Gnocchi. Prounounced NYO-kee. Gnocchi actually means 'knot' or 'knuckle' in Italian so instead of the American knuckle sandwhich, perhaps the Italians send someone a message by giving them gnocchi! I did share some of these with one of my friends, but I did not intend to send it to her with that intention. =P
We had a chance to taste this in Italy and also some at Luppa in NYC, so I gave it ago. These little bundles of pasta are made of ingredients just like regular pasta, but instead of using the whole amount of flour, a good portion is made of potatoes. So gnocchi are like potato dumplings and they are hearty little bites!
Those ridges in gnocchi aren't decorative like peanut butter cookies, but they're actually functional. They're made by pressing the back of a fork into the dumpling and they catch sauce in the grooves so each piece has more flavor. Pasta with spoons! Usually, it'll be served with some tomato based sauce, pesto or even something simple like butter and cheese.
They all didn't come out this beautiful, but of course, who'd choose the ugliest to photograph? So... here is one of the best gnocchis. I did it the simple way for starters, but there is gnocchi that is rounder. There is also a smaller version called gnochetti which is perfect for little children.
I served it up with some homemade pesto sauce that I had from a winter caprese salad along with sharp Italian cheese and pine nuts. Pesto takes a lot of basil! I went to the local italian market looking for a few bunches of basil and the first thing the Italian behind the counter asked was, "Are you making pesto?" Nothing takes as much basil like pesto making it an extremely healthy sauce. Basil is known to play a role in preventing cancer and it's rich in antioxidants. To give you a a comparison of something familiar to most, it has more antioxidants than blackberries, strawberries or blueberries! Now that's a lot. Here they are all dressed up for Christmas.
and this is the Winter Caprese Salad which we took to a Christmas potluck party that uses the pesto as well. What makes Winter Caprese Salad different from the normal Caprese salad? Instead of regular mozzarella and basil leaves, it uses mozzarella marinated in the pesto sauce. I believe they made it this way in the winter because basil leaves are not as readily as available in the winter months as the warm months, but if you put the basil leaves in some kind of perserving agent, basil can be used throughout the winter. The perserving agent would be the olive oil. The tomatoes are also baked for 1.5 hrs - 2hrs, their skins are peeled and the tomatoes are coated with an "elixir" that enhances the flavor. The elixir is known to visibly shed years off your age and make you make you feel 10 years younger ....I kid. :) The elixir is called agrodolce which adds a slightly acidic and sweet touch. A mix of equal parts red wine vinegar and sugar.
It's a very basic salad of the Italians and it's a dish to be proud of as it sports the colors of the Italian flag... and Christmas!
Happy Holidays :)
and as always... Bon Appetito!