Recently, my family gathered in celebration of my grandfather’s birthday. Due to the pandemic and the fact that many of us are spread across the country, we decided to “meet” over Zoom for this celebration.
My grandfather’s side of the family is somewhat large, especially by today’s standards. He grew up with four brothers and two sisters, and with all five brothers sharing a room, we’ve heard many stories of a boisterous household and bedroom floor that was rarely seen. As the siblings have grown and the family has expanded, they’ve managed to stay connected with the help of frequent reunions and technology. It has been wonderful to be a part of this loving extended family and to know that wherever I travel across the country, a relative will likely be near.
Given that this side of the family is half-Italian and half-Irish, traditions and food have always played an important role in our gatherings. So it seemed fitting that for my Grandpa’s birthday Zoom call, we would celebrate him in a way that connects him with those he loves. Even while thousands of miles apart, my aunt planned a party that would allow us all to cook and enjoy a meal together. A cousin in the family who’s a chef and had worked at one of the finest Italian restaurants in Chicago led us in a cooking class highlighting a special Italian dish: pesto gnocchi!
Gnocchi is a type of Italian dumpling — essentially a lump of dough, composed of potato, egg, pepper, cheese, salt, and more. Potentially the best part of gnocchi is that it only takes a minute to cook, making it a quick meal for any occasion if par-cooked frozen and then re-cooked. To taste, especially with pesto, it’s smooth, rich, and absolutely delicious. For a water polo player like me, a satisfying and nutritious carbohydrate is just what I was craving.
Once your dough is completed, make sure to rest it for about 15 minutes to half an hour. This should create an optimal taste.
Now it’s time to cut! Flour your hands and roll the dough into ½-inch long ropes. Then, cut each gnocchi to be about ½-inch long, creating a pillow shape. This part is satisfying and my personal favorite. Depending on your preference, you can use a fork to add texture, which my family opted to do.
Now it’s time to cook! Bring your water to a simmer while cutting your dumplings. Once it is boiling, you can place your gnocchi in. After about a minute, they should float to the top, which tells you that they’re cooked.
The pesto sauce is a creamy, flavorful, and a delicious addition to the gnocchi. While gnocchi can be eaten plain, with butter, with marinara sauce, or practically anything, pesto is my personal favorite with the array of flavors it brings.
Toss your pesto with your gnocchi and serve with your toppings of preference. I enjoyed it with parmesan and a touch of garnish.
Wood Cutting Board
2 lbs Idaho Potato
240 g All Purpose Flour (2 Cups)
1 Large Egg
1 tsp ground black pepper
¼ Cup grated parmesan
1. Bake the potatoes dry and unsalted at 350 for around 45 mins.
2. Let the potatoes cool, peel them, and then rice or mash until they are a fine consistency.
3. Add 500 grams of your riced potato to a bowl.
4. Add 1 whole egg, black pepper, and parmesan.
5. Add half of your flour and incorporate; do not knead. Add the rest of your flour and gently knead for a couple minutes max until you have a dough that is not sticky.
6. Cover and rest for at least 15 mins. A half hour is ideal.
7. Fill your pot with one gallon of water and begin heating. When the water is simmering, add ¼ cup salt
8. Add dough to your lightly floured cutting board and using your dough scraper, cut your dough into 8 pieces the long way.
9. Flour your hands and roll each piece into a long rope about ½ inch thick.
10. Going down each individual rope, cut each gnocchi about ½ in long. Cut by rolling your dough scraper back towards you. This will create the pillow shape.
11. (Optional) Roll down a fork to create texture for sauce to cling to.
12. When water is at a rolling boil, add 1/3 of your gnocchi by sliding them off of your cutting board with your dough scraper.
13. When your gnocchi float to the top (around 1 min), turn your pot down to low and remove with a spider or slotted spoon.
14. Add to sauce or coat with a small amount of oil to be used later.
4 oz (around 2 C) basil, no stems
½ cup pine nuts, raw
1 cup grated parmesan
1 garlic clove, large
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. One hour before making pesto, put your olive oil in the fridge.
2. Add 2 cups of ice water to a bowl.
3. Microplane your garlic clove into your food processor or blender.
4. Add pine nuts to blender.
5. Strain 1 cup of ice water to cover the garlic and nuts.
6. Blend on low until your nuts and and garlic are pureed. Scrape down the sides of your blender to make the puree is smooth.
7. Add picked basil to ice water for 2 minutes.
8. Remove basil and add to the blender; top with the extra virgin olive oil.
9. Blend on low at first, then crank to high and blend for one minute max. Stop to scrape down sides. You are looking for a smooth, green, and somewhat loose puree.
10. Add parmesan and blend, thickening your pesto. Add salt to taste.
Getting a virtual cooking class from my cousin and eating gnocchi was an absolutely perfect way to celebrate my Grandpa’s birthday. Family traditions and food are what bring people together, and I hope that sharing my pesto gnocchi recipe will inspire you to obtain some family recipes from your relatives and maybe even do a shared meal over Zoom like we did!