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Cheese-Stuffed Gnocchi

30 January 2012

This dish is inspired by something I had during my trip to Europe in high school (can’t believe it’s almost been 4 years!). Short summary: we started off in Paris, took the train to the beautiful city of Nice, then went to Florence and ended in Rome. This food memory comes from Assisi (as in St. Francis of Assisi), where we stopped briefly on the way to Rome. It was actually very cold that day and, too everyone’s surprise, it started snowing when we got there! (Assisi is sort of at high elevation, though) Anyways, we walked around for a bit, looking at the churches and old buildings, taking pictures (admittedly it was kinda boring there) and then we decided to go to this cozy pasta ‘ristorante’ for some lunch. Looking at the menu, I saw GNOCCHI and I had to order it, fulfilling my need for authentic Italian food. I’ve loved gnocchi ever since I first tried it, there’s just something about it. I mean, what’s not to like?? **Boring educational annotation: Gnocchi is a sort of Italian ‘pasta dumpling’, popularly made with potato, flour and egg, though it has many varieties**  My meal arrived and there were these massive balls (excuse my language) covered in tomato sauce and baked with cheese. The best part? They were stuffed with gooey, melty cheese! Definitely worth it.

Ahh...food memories...

So that is what I am trying to recreate with this recipe. I’ve actually made gnocchi several times before, so I took my dough recipe and just stuffed it with cheese! I decided to use mozzarella, but you can use any good melting cheese. I’ve even heard of stuffing gnocchi with softer cheeses, like goat cheese and ricotta. As well, any sort of tomato sauce  works for this, but I decided to make an Arrabiata sauce. All’arrabbiata literally means ‘angry style’ and is given its name because it is made with red chili.

Here’s what you’re gonna need:

Gnocchi: 

  • 2 lbs. potatoes (russet works best)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Your choice of cheese, cut into half-inch cubes
  • Some cheese for topping (grated is best)

Arrabbiata Sauce: 

  • about 200 g pancetta, diced (may substitute with bacon)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1 cup of finely diced onion
  • handful of basil, chopped finely
  • can of strained/crushed tomatoes
  • couple of good pinches of red chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s how to make it:

1. Bake the potatoes in a 350°F oven for 1-1.5 hours (depending on size) until cooked all the way through. Baking (as opposed to boiling) helps keep the potato relatively dry and results in fluffier, better-textured gnocchi.

Advanced potato cooling technique

2. Allow the potatoes to cool. Peel off the skins and grate (or use a ricer if you are fortunate enough to have one of those) into a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the egg and mix well to incorporate (I like to use my hands at this point). Gradually mix in the flour to form the dough. Add the flour until the dough is no longer sticky.

4. Dump onto a floured surface and knead well for about 5 minutes (more or less, depending on how chewy you want your gnocchi).

5. Cut dough into 3 pieces (6 for normal gnocchi) and roll each into a log. Cut dough cross-wise and form pieces into roughly 1 to 1.5 inch balls.

6. Flatten each ball into a circle and place a piece of cheese in the centre. Pinch closed to seal the cheese in the gnocchi and roll back into a ball.

Arrabbiata Sauce:

7. Cook the pancetta at medium-high heat in a medium saucepan to render most of the fat. Set aside the pancetta and remove most of the fat, leaving some in the pan to cook the other ingredients (add olive oil if you need it).

8. Add the basil and chili flakes and cook at medium-high for a minute or so. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add back the pancetta and add the strained/crushed tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.

Back to the gnocchi:

9. *Preheat oven to 375°F* Cook gnocchi in a large pot of salted boiling water until they begin to float (time depends on the size of the gnocchi). Strain gnocchi and mix with your sauce.

10. Transfer gnocchi and sauce into a casserole dish or something similar. Top with cheese at this point (I decided to top it with the same mozzarella I stuffed the gnocchi with, though I should have grated it). Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is browning. Alternatively, you may place it under the broiler at the end of the baking to brown the top better. Serve and enjoy!

The gnocchi ended up tasting really good! Next time I’ll use less sauce and stuff more cheese into the gnocchi. Good stuff! I hope I can get into a consistent posting rhythm. No more neglect for you, food blog!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 31 January 2012 3:11 am

    this sounds delicious!! I love gnocchi, and stuffing it with cheese?! yummmm…

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