Gnocchi with Pesto Recipe
For the Pesto:
In a food processor or blender, add:
4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried in a salad spinner or patted dry in paper towels;
5-6 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped up a bit;
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden, and then cooled (I use the microwave to toast the pine nuts...put them in a shallow bowl,
cook 1 minute at a time, stir, repeat, until pine nuts start to turn light brown, and then stop)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2-3 tablespoons, as needed.
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or you can use the pre-grated half Parmesan/half Romano from the bag if you want, it tastes great in this recipe).
Process in little spurts until still slighty grainy (you want a bit of texture, not purely creamy),
stirring down with a rubber spatula, and adding a bit more oil if necessary.
Dump in cheese and give it one more whirl, pour into a bowl, and add salt to taste (I add about 1/2 tsp.
and sometimes more). Cover with a thin layer of olive oil to seal out the air (or it will start to turn brown),
cover tightly with saran wrap. Pesto can be made day or two in advance,
but take out of fridge to warm up while making gnocchi.
For the Gnocchi:
2 large or three medium russet potatoes (plain baking potato type)
Boil potatoes in salted water until easily peirced with a fork. Drain, let cool until barely warm, peel skins, transfer to a bowl and using a mixer, whip until there are no visible lumps. (OR you can use a potato masher, or potato ricer, which actually works the best of all)
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour, mixed well with 1 teaspoon salt. Stir well until flour and potatoes stick together.
Turn out onto a well-floured counter, and lighty knead until the dough is not sticky anymore, adding more flour (up to another 2 cups, depending on the amount of water in the potato) as needed. This should take about 4 minutes. The trick is to not knead it more than necessary, or add too much flour, but to have a smooth, workable dough.
Divide dough into 7 pieces, roll each into a skinny rope about 1 inch in diameter, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Stick each gnocchi with the tines of the fork to make dents for the sauce to stick in. If you are not ready to cook immediately, put on a floured cookie sheet and cover with a tea towel....do not cover with saran wrap, or they will start to get mushy on you.
Cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until gnocchi are tender and rise to surface, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer cooked gnocchi to warm bowl.
Immediately add the room-tempurature pesto sauce (all of it, or less, depending on how intense you like your pesto) and 1 cup additional grated cheese, stir well, and serve on the spot. Makes enough to serve 8 people.
***Optional For a pesto cream sauce, add 1 cup heavy cream to the pesto in a small saucepan, heat through (do not boil) , and then add gnocchi. This lightens up the intense pesto flavor a bit and adds a pleasing creaminess to the pasta.
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