Last week I had a hankering for gnocchi. The remnants of last year’s potatoes are all sprouting, which is good for planting but not so much for eating, so I used a combination of store-bought red potatoes and a sweet potato. I’m about to plant a bunch of early greens outside, since it’s so mild, but these are the dark days for stored food as we run out of spuds and the jars of tomato sauce dwindle. Had I known how un-wintry this winter would be, I would have been much more serious about the hoop houses in the garden. Usually they get so buried in snow that I have to abandon them at a certain point since it’s too much work to get to them and dig them out. This year we could have had half the garden producing all winter.
After peeling, cubing, and steaming, I stick-blended them all smooth with egg yolks, flour, nutmeg, salt, and a little smoked paprika. Then the mixture went in the pastry bag to be piped out into simmering water. I skimmed them out carefully when they floated; the mixture was light on egg so they were fluffy and delicate. Milo took pictures of the piping and cutting, because he couldn’t quite get the hang of doing it.
The pastry bag makes homemade gnocchi easier than normal in two important ways. First, it allows one to make the mixture wetter than is possible when one is rolling out snakes of dough. Depending on the potatoes, sometimes it’s hard to get a dry enough dough that still has enough egg to hold it together during boiling. The bag handles gooey, starchy dough with aplomb. Second, there’s no rolling out of snake after snake of dough; one hand squeezes, the other cuts, and the bag is washed by the time the gnocchi are all floating. They don’t get the fork lines this way, true, but if you absolutely must have ridged gnocchi simply use a serrated tip on the bag. (The ridges will run lengthwise, but if that’s a deal-breaker then you should really take it up with your pharmacist).
For the sauce, with an eye on those ever-fewer jars of tomato sauce, I made a simple mixture of bacon, leeks, and chèvre plus copious pepper, garlic, parsley, and thyme. It’s hard to beat this combination, and on little pillows of soft, potatoey goodness it was perfection. This should be in everybody’s rotation; from peeling the potatoes to dribbling truffle oil on the finished bowls of dinner about 40 minutes had elapsed. There was leftover dough, too, which freezes beautifully, though I had plans for it so I just put it in the fridge.