I remember my grandmother waking up very early one Sunday morning when I was younger. I think I was just coming home, and she was in the kitchen with cooked potatoes a big bag of flour and some eggs. I had asked her what she was doing and she said she was making gnocchi for dinner.
“At 5 am?!” I asked. She looked at me and smiled and said, “Of course I have to start them now if you want to eat later.” Boy, they sure don’t make people like that anymore.
Anyway at 2 pm, when I woke up, the gnocchi were on the table covered with a Bolognese sauce. Man, they were good, but so much work — there had to be an easier way.
Naturally, I found it — so here it is, my “Easy Gnocchi” recipe.
2 cups flour
1 whole egg
1 tbls. Kosher salt
1 tsp. coarse ground pepper
12 ounces Jumbo shrimp, peeled and cleaned, (save the shells)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut in eighths
3 to 6 asparagus spears, sliced on a bias, one inch long
1/5 pound Crimini mushrooms
2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces White wine
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper Flakes
2 tbls. butter
10 basil leaves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bring four cups of salted water to a boil. Put your shrimp shells and tails into boiling water and let simmer for about 15 minutes then strain, saving the liquid for the sauce. Season the mushrooms with a little oil salt and pepper and roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes.
To start the gnocchi, put the ricotta on a clean table and make a well in the center. Drop the whole egg in the center then cover it with about 1-3/4 cup of the flour and the salt and pepper. Work this into soft dough with your hands. You may need to add more flour to the table to prevent sticking. In the beginning, it is going to be a little messy, but after the flour is incorporated it will ball up. The dough should be the consistency of Play Dough.
Round it out into a ball and divide it into four pieces and put it aside. Dust the table with the flour. With your hands, take each piece and make long snakes about 3/4 of an inch thick. After you have four snakes, flour up a spatula and cut them into one inch pieces and place them on a floured cookie sheet leaving space between each one. Now sprinkle a touch more flour over the top. Then drop half them into your pot of boiling water. Stir them lightly. When they are ready, they will float to the top. Gently spoon them out and put them in cold water. Repeat for the second batch. After they are cool, strain them very will and drizzle with a touch of olive oil to prevent sticking. Set them aside. The hard part is over.
Ten minutes before you are ready to eat, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a large non stick sauté pan on high heat. Add the cooked gnocchi and brown them a little (about three minutes). Remove and add the shrimp, asparagus, garlic and a touch more oil. Sauté until they are slightly brown. Add the white wine and two cups of your shrimp broth. Let it simmer for about four minutes. Then add the tomatoes basil and butter. Season the dish with the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Spoon the gnocchi into a large pasta bowl, sit down, relax, call Grandma, and enjoy!
Joe Raiola is the executive chef at Morton’s The Steakhouse [339 Adams St. between Willoughby and Tillary streets in Downtown, (718) 596-2700].