Tag Archives: gnocchi

Taste of Mendoza: Argentine Casero

My host mom's freshly formed ñoquis waiting to be cooked

My biggest concern before arriving in Argentina was how I’d get along with my host family and the type of food I’d be eating with them. I’d heard a lot about the argentine love affair with beef (as we all have) and a bit about its rich Italian influence. What’s more, my trusty guidebook warned about the lack of vegetables, which it said the argentines consider a simple garnish. In my mind this translated to an extreme, protein-and-starch diet for the duration of my stay here, so during my last week in the States, I prepared to say good-bye to fresh greens, savoring every last salad or raw vegetable I could get my hands on.

Once in Argentina, I quickly realized that the food here is nothing to worry about. There are salads abound, the fruits are ripe and the vegetables fresh. And as for the beef, and especially for the abundance of Italian food, the Italian immigrants have done justice to their European heritage. My apprehension was clearly misplaced.

In fact, a few days ago I awoke to find my host mom making ñoquis caseros (home-made gnocchi). I was quite impressed: she was boiling and mashing the potatoes, adding in an egg, spices, and (best of all) chopped parsley. Before beginning to knead the gnocchi dough into flour and shaping them into the classic gnocchi shell shape, she even set a pan of tomato puree to simmer and reduce with onion, bell pepper, left-over chorizo, and more spices. It was going to be a fabulous lunch.

And indeed it was. I’d never really appreciated gnocchi before this meal because I had always found them heavy and tasteless. These, however, were something else: because they were made with very little flour, they were much lighter than expected. And paired with the reduced tomato sauce, the combination was more than perfect. Argentina has outdone itself once again.


Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet potato gnocchi
Sweet potato gnocchi with a side of sauteed broccoli rabe

Gnocchi is a rare breed of pasta. Unlike most varieties, it has a thickness to it. It can be made with potatoes or cheese. Most fresh pasta is much lighter than its boxed or frozen store-bought counterpart; gnocchi is no exception. And given its thickness, this quality is all the more noticable.

Thinking it would be a bit more interesting, I decided to replace the russett potatoes in the two recipes I was working off of with sweet potatoes. Little did I know! The difference in texture and their water content forced me to add more than double the flour the other recipes called for.

Here’s the gnocchi recipe:

Note: It makes quite a lot, so if you have more than you’d like to eat, just spread out the extra ones on parchment paper and roll up the paper, put the roll in a plastic bag, and freeze. Then just boil them when you’re ready.

2 lbs of sweet potatoes
2 eggs
4 c AP flour
1 t salt

Boil the potatoes for 40 minutes in salted water (the water can start cold) or until they’re soft (I left them in for about 50 mins more than that with the heat off). Cool them a bit (10 or 15 mins on a cutting board), then peel them and put ’em in a bowl. Mash them with the other ingredients when they’re cool enough to not scramble the eggs.

Depending on how fast you are, now might be a good time to make the sauce, or get someone else to make it while you prepare the dough.

Add flour until the dough just stops being sticky, then turn it out of the bowl and knead until you have a smooth dough, adding flour as necessary.

Uncooked gnocchi
Uncooked gnocchi

Break off baseball-sized pieces and roll them into .5-1″ diameter cylinders, using plenty of flour on the outsides, then cut into .5″ sections. Don’t worry if the cylinders are uneven or if your sections aren’t equal; gnocchi are pretty forgiving because they tell you when they’re done cooking by floating to the surface!

Boil a pot of salted water and put in about 20 gnocchi’s at a time. In 3 or 4 minutes at a rolling boil, they should start floating up. Nab the floaters with a slotted spoon and throw ’em in the sauce.

When you’ve cooked a sufficient number and left them in the sauce for about 5 mins on low heat, you’re good to go! Dig in.

gnocchi in pot
gnocchi in pot

Basic tomato sauce recipe:
1 T olive oil
1 med-large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 T garlic (crushed or minced)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 T oregano
.5 T basil
1.5 T sugar
.5 t salt
dash of Sriracha chili garlic sauce (optional)

In a large frying pan/skillet over medium or medium high heat, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant (a few minutes). Then throw in the whole can of tomatoes and all the other ingredients, mix it together, and let it simmer with a lid on for at least 15 mins.  I had about .5 lbs of cooked sausage in the fridge that I diced and added in with the tomatoes.  If you want to use raw meat like ground beef, I recommend using about a pound and browning it after you saute the onions but before you add the tomatoes and the rest.  You can just leave the onions right in the pan as you brown the beef.