On a whim, my brother decided that he was going to be home from college for a few days this weekend. Whenever he’s home, I immediately go into full Italian grandmother mode and make oodles and oodles of food, mostly in the hopes that it will entice him to choose LA over Denver when the time comes to graduate. He asked if I wanted to cook dinner on Friday and offered himself and a few of his friends as my potential kitchen scullions. I gladly accepted and pranced off to the store to try to get inspired. I knew I wanted to make something that was hearty but not overly heavy, as I know that college life usually consists of late-night pizza runs and the more than occasional burrito. I also had to feed a mass of hungry boys on a budget, so a pasta dish seemed like the right choice.
When I got to the store, I noticed they were having a pretty good sale on some of their mushroom varieties. I was sold. Inspiration acquired. Instead of my usual short rib ragù that I make for pasta dishes, I decided to be a little more price conscious and opt for the mushrooms instead. Short ribs are delicious but lord can they be expensive. I also didn’t have a whole lot of time after work on Friday to let the short ribs braise for the time that they needed, so the mushroom route seemed like the best time-saver as well. I made the gnocchi the night before and just let them sit on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper overnight so that I wasn’t neck deep in a gnocchi rolling haze right before dinner time. The dish turned out so tasty and the fact that there were no leftovers is always a good sign of a meal well enjoyed.
for the gnocchi:
- 3 lbs russet potatoes (about 3-4 potatoes)
- 2 cups flour + more for dusting
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 egg
for the ragù:
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms (can sub for any tasty mushroom you want)
- 3 shallots
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 8 oz package dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp corn starch
- salt and pepper to taste
- grated parmesan cheese
large stock pot, large sauté pan, parchment paper, slotted spoon, potato masher or ricer, gnocchi board (optional), bench scraper (optional)
Place whole potatoes in stock pot and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes until potatoes are fork tender all the way through. While potatoes are boiling, start the prep work on your sauce. Finely dice shallots. Mince garlic. Remove leaves from thyme and finely chop. Wipe mushrooms down with a damp towel to remove dirt. Slice into bit-sized pieces. Place porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover with saran wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.
When potatoes are done, remove skin and mash in a large bowl. Make sure to make them as smooth as possible. Using a large spoon, mix in flour, eggs, and salt. You can use your hands to make sure that the ingredients are fully combined (I prefer this method though it is a bit messy).
Sprinkle a good amount of flour on a smooth work surface. Knead your gnocchi dough for about 4 minutes, adding flour until it’s not sticky to the touch.
Portion dough into about 6 pieces. Roll out each chunk into a long round snake-like cylinder, just under the thickness of a wine cork. Using your bench scraper or a knife, cut gnocchi “snakes” into 1″ long pieces.
Roll each piece in flour and use your thumb to shape them with the gnocchi board. (If you don’t have a gnocchi board, see the Tips + Tricks section below)
Lay out a piece of parchment paper, sprinkle with flour, and place your shaped gnocchi on it.
Heat up your butter in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Sauté shallots until just translucent (about 3-4 minutes), then add garlic. Sauté for another minute and add your sliced mushrooms. Turn heat to medium-low and cook mushrooms until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn heat back up to medium high and pour in wine. Sauté for another 2 minutes then add stock.
Simmer until the mixture has reduced by about half. Make a slurry with your corn starch and about 2 tbsp of water in a separate bowl. Stir slurry into mushroom mixture. Take dried mushrooms out of their bath and chop up. Add to ragù and pour in the remaining liquid, avoiding any sand that might be at the bottom. Simmer on medium, stirring occasionally until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Salt to taste. Cover and reduce heat to super low until read to serve.
Dump out the stock pot full of potato water and bring a fresh pot of water to boil. Salt water with about 2-3 tbsp of salt. Once water is boiling, cook gnocchi in batches of about 20. Once they float to the top, they’re ready to be removed with a slotted spoon and placed in serving dishes.
Plate gnocchi in bowls and top with mushroom ragù. Top with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Tips + Tricks:
*if you don’t own a gnocchi paddle, you can use a fork to shape your gnocchi. Place the tines of your fork flat on top of each gnocchi piece and with light pressure, roll the tines across the gnocchi to form a little half pipe.
*the gnocchi takes some time to make, so if you want to do it ahead of time, just place it on a piece of parchment on a baking sheet and place in the fridge. It will be slightly dry to the touch the next day but will turn out deliciously soft and moist once you drop them in the boiling water.