Tag Archives: Pasta

Easy, Fluffy, Pillowy, homemade gnocchi

I have been in love with gnocchi for a very, very long time. In fact, I craved these little pasta clouds of potato and flour served with tomato sauce throughout a pregnancy. But till recently, my love for gnocchi was satiated by buying the best Italian brands on supermarket shelves and eating it on my forays into Italian restaurants. But just recently, I decided to make these on my own. The process is easy (albeit a little messy), but feels at every moment like you are creating a work of art. I am so in love with this home made version that I have sworn to never really buy gnocchi ever again. Okay, with that said, here’s how I created these divine works of art.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 1/3 heaped cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp of kosher salt

How to:

1. Wash the potatoes, scrub them and pierce holes. Cook in a microwave at the potato setting till completely cooked. Peel the potatoes and rice them in a ricer over a wooden board. If you don’t have a river, you can grate the potatoes with a grater that has small holes. Spread the potatoes over the board using a fork. Sprinkle the kosher salt. 

2. Sprinkle or sift the flour over the potatoes and using a bench scraper just chop all over the potato/ flour mixture.  Gather the mixture into a ball. Flatten the ball with your hands, bring the ends of the dough together and press it down again. Just repeat this gently till the potato flour mixture is seamlessly blended. 

3. Dust the work area with more flour, pinch off two inch rounds of dough and gently roll it into a rope. Cut into one inch pieces using a knife and lay down each gnocchi on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Once all the gnocchi are made, press down the surface of each gnocchi with a fork to create ridges that will help the sauce cling to to the pasta well. 

4. Repeat process till all the dough is used up. 

5. Freeze tray of gnocchi for 15 minutes.  

6. Now you could bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the gnocchi and cook just for a minute or two till the gnocchi floats to the top or alternately use my preferred method and sauté the gnocchi in a bit of butter or oil till they are moderately browned. 

7. Serve with your favorite sauce. 

Giovanni’s – A Lip Smacking Dining Experience in Covent Garden, London

By Lakshmi:

It was our first visit to the Covent Garden area.  Yes, in all our visits to London, we had never visited this hip and happening spot, till a friend from the US suggested we meet up there for dinner.

From the moment you emerge from the tube station, the energy of the area just draws you in.  Well dressed youth milling around in animated conversations, elegant opera goers, dapper business folks and tourists all make the area a totally fun place for people watching.  Amid this hustle bustle, we decided to scout out our place to hang for the evening.  We were too late to watch Daniel Radcliffe, too hungry to eat fast food, did not want to go into any of the pretentious looking places that charged a gazillion pounds, passed on Koshary as too much of a quick bite and finally settled on Giovanni’s.  The restaurant was small, the menu enticing and the atmosphere cosy.

A sixty year old institution in a fabled old area, the people and the food at Giovanni’s made for a perfect evening.  We decided to share three dishes accompanied by the mandatory prosecco!  Here are the dishes that made us savor every bite and not leave even a morsel on our plates.

Pappardelle “Maestro Pavarotti” – Pappardelle (ribbon pasta) with broad beans, garden peas, spring onions and parmigiano with a little fresh chilli pepper

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This was the perfect summer dish.  The pappardelle ribbons making the perfect bed for the fresh summer veggies.  A light pasta dish so perfect for al fresco dining experiences.  A pasta I had never tasted stateside and yet appeared so easy to create.

Bufala di Aversa – 100% Bufala mozzarella served with sliced beef tomato, fresh basil leaves and cold pressed olive oil

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Eating really fresh mozzarella is a subliminal experience and this salad with the summer fresh tomatoes and basil drizzled with really good olive oil could not go wrong in any way.

Orecchiette con Broccoli – Shell shaped pasta with broccoli, garlic and chilli

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If there was a “crowning glory” to our meal, it would have to be this dish.  A pasta dish so simple, with good for you ingredients, that a recreated version now features on our dinner plate at home.  The orecchiette was tossed with finely chopped steamed broccoli and flavored with just olive oil, garlic and chilli.  Simply perfect – with the only regret being not having enough room in our belly to tuck in a second plate!

We ended our meal with a Tiramisu and espresso, emerging in a blissful state into the throngs of folks leaving the opera.  Our meal was the music for our soul that evening.

To learn more about Giovanni’s please visit their website at

http://giovannislondon.co.uk/

Can A Simple Combination Of Pasta And Veggies Create Something This Divine?

By Lakshmi:

Anyone who has ever stepped into a Cheesecake Factory will vouch for the fact that indecision over what to order from appetizers to entres to desserts is tour de rigueur.  For us vegetarians, it is a bit of a blessing that the choices are more restrictive.  It is from this  more limited menu option that we decided to order Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta.  The description was mouth-watering.

“Penne Tossed with Broccoli, Oven-Dried Tomato, Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Artichoke, Kalamata Olives, Garlic and Pine Nuts.”

After a non stop eating expedition visiting family and friends in DC, none of us was particularly hungry.  So a single dish of Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta was scooped up by five of us, leaving not a single morsel on the plate.  What was it about the dish that made it so delicious?  The richness of olive oil infused with sautéed garlic, the crunchiness of the pine nuts, the rich flavors of the oven roasted veggies blending in with the saltiness of the olives all melded to create a sensory experience which lingered long after the meal was over.

A few weeks later, sitting in my kitchen in New Jersey on a cold, wintry day, I craved for this pasta.  I did not want to drive, I did not want to wait in line, I wanted it now.

So, out came the ingredients from the pantry.  I had no penne, but my beautiful batch of bow tie pasta seemed to be the perfect substitute.  I heated up some extra virgin olive oil and on a lark decided to throw in some red pepper flakes to perk up the dish.  In went some crushed garlic and roasted pine nuts and the kitchen was already smelling heavenly.  I picked up some previously roasted eggplant bits, pulled out some sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, a small can of chopped black olives, some sliced orange peppers and a few quickly blanched broccoli flowerets.  A swish here, a turn there and behold……what emerged in the pan was this absolutely beautiful pasta dish that tasted like a million bucks.  And that’s the picture at the top of this post.

Since then, the dish has become a staple in our household and Evelyn has been relegated to the back room while Lakshmi has taken over:)

If you’ve experienced the joy of recreating a restaurant favorite in your own home, we would love to hear about your agony and ecstasy in getting there.