I’ve never succeeded at making gnocchi from a recipe. They would usually turn out too dense and firm, or sometimes just the opposite – so soft that they would almost dissolve as I boiled them in water.
I recently came across this article from The Lucky Peach. It’s a step-by-step gnocchi guide by Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth restaurant in New York, who claims to have made gnocchi some-forty thousand times. He doesn’t include a recipe, which is a good thing, but he does eloquently curse his way through a very detailed gnocchi making process, which may either scare you to death or slowly start to convince you that really good home-made gnocchi is not totally out of reach.
Gnocchi are just potato dumplings, made out of two of the simplest ingredients, potatoes and flour. But sometimes simple things can be the most intricate. In the context of gnocchi, not only do different potato varieties behave differently, but their age matters, the way they’re cooked matters, the temperature at which they’re mixed with flour matters. I can go on. This is why recipes have failed me in the past and this is exactly where Marco’s guide gave me hope. It doesn’t offer specific quantities, but has all the little steps and bits of sensory guidance that you will need.
For today’s recipe I decided to give Marco’s gnocchi a shot. Mine didn’t turn out perfect but I have faith that with practice and my new-found understanding of the process, they will improve. They were, however, much better than anything I’ve made in the past or bought at the supermarket. I would encourage you to try them out as well, but I won’t insist. You can certainly make this recipe with store bought gnocchi, but I hope to have sparked a little bit of curiosity about the process.
Let’s move on to today’s super hearty mid-winter treat. Sweet roasted acorn squash and pan-fried gnocchi are complemented with crispy bacon and sage leaves on a family-style platter, with hopes that everyone around the table can enjoy a few indulgent bites. You can easily make it vegetarian by substituting bacon with some grated parmesan cheese and adding some toasted pine nuts on top.
- 1 acorn squash, seeds scooped out, sliced into 1cm slices (peeling not necessary)
- olive oil
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped into 1inch pieces
- a handful of sage leaves (15 - 20)
- a few tablespoons of butter
- 1lb of home-made or store bought gnocchi, cooked and drained
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the squash slices (do not overlap).
- Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt. Use your hands to evenly coat them with the oil and salt.
- Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until soft and golden on the bottom.
- While the squash is cooking start cooking the bacon. Over low heat on the stove top, in a medium skillet, slowly cook the bacon, allowing the fat to render, until the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, reserving the fat.
- If enough fat has rendered to generously coat the bottom of the skillet, use it to fry the sage. If there isn't enough bacon fat, add a little bit of butter.
- Add the sage leaves to the skillet and cook for a minute or so on each side, until crispy. Remove the leaves from the skillet and set aside.
- Drain the bacon fat and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the skillet (clean it if necessary). You can add back the bacon fat to fry the gnocchi (supplement with butter, if necessary) or just go all-butter, up to you.
- Over medium heat, warm up your chosen fat and add the gnocchi to the skillet. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Cook them in batches, if necessary, without overcrowding the skillet.
- When the squash is ready, remove it from the oven and arrange on a serving platter. Top with gnocchi, bacon and crispy sage leaves. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and serve right away.
The prep time does not include home-made gnocchi. If you choose to go on that adventure, you can make them a day or two ahead and keep them refrigerated.