In my esteemed opinion, gnocchi is one of the most delicious foods on Earth. And while the uninitiated may take this as a bold claim, anyone who has tasted this soft, slightly chewy potato pasta will likely agree it is one of the best things to come out of Italy, barring the Renaissance.
Because it is so specific to Italian cuisine, gnocchi can be difficult to find in your local supermarket, let alone in a college dining hall. Having failed to encounter gnocchi at Usdan or Summerfields, I had more or less given up on eating it while at Wes until Homecoming Weekend at Big Lots, where I discovered it on sale at a ridiculously low price ($1.50 a package). Naturally, I pretty much bought out the store and stowed my haul in the fridge for days when I felt like eating in.
My first Italian-inspired meal was on a Sunday afternoon when my roommate and I shared a bowl of gnocchi mixed with edamame beans and shredded carrots filched from Usdan. The vegetables added a satisfying crunch to an otherwise simple dish, and they helped absorb some of the olive oil, which I accidentally over-poured since I lacked the aid of a tablespoon. With a little salt to give it punch, it was a wonderful lunch to consume in the sunlit nook by Writing Hall’s central window, and it fed both my roommate and me with leftovers to spare.
My second meal was more out of desperation when, after returning from Ski Week, I realized there was nothing but gnocchi and old cranberries in the fridge. Fortunately, my Ski Week buddy and hallmate extraordinaire Jessica Park ’17 had some fresh spinach, which we steamed and mixed in with the gnocchi to make a gourmet, late-night treat. If you are ever out of food after wrapping up a five-hour drive, I highly recommend the above combination, though a kitchen is required.
Gnocchi is a type of pasta not to be missed, and with one packet remaining I may even personally cook you some if you demonstrate yourself to be suitably deprived. Or, to make things easier for me, you can ask at Weshop or find a car to go to Big Lots and start a gnocchi stash of your own. Either way, take some time to enjoy Italy’s finest, and remember that there is a culinary horizon beyond Usdan!
1. Heat one gallon of water until boiling in a large pot.
2. Add gnocchi and cook until all of the pasta floats to the top. This process should move quickly (a few minutes maximum), so keep a close eye on the pot and beware of overcooking.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and drain the gnocchi. Do not rinse.
4. Pour gnocchi into a bowl and add the olive oil. Stir until pasta is completely coated (add more oil if necessary). Set aside.
5. Add the spinach to a saucepan containing approximately half an inch of water. Cover the pan, and steam the spinach until soft and wrinkled.
6. Drain the spinach and mix it into the bowl of gnocchi. Add pine nuts and salt until flavorful.
1 package (1 lb.) potato gnocchi
1 package (10 oz.) fresh spinach
2 tbsp. pine nuts
1.5 tbsp. olive oil
Salt to taste