Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Parisian Gnocchi

This is a relative rarity for me: a recipe that hasn’t been substantially futzed with. It’s a Jacques Pepin recipe, and why muck about with perfection?

Parisian gnocchi are the French version of the Italian classic. These gnocchi involve no tiresome fiddling with potatoes. Instead, you make pate choux – the same dough that is the base for éclairs, gougeres, and chouquettes – boil it, top it with cheese (or sauce if you want), and bake it. The resultant gnocchi are like the decadent love child of pastry and pasta.

I don't bother to measure the cheese for this recipe and suspect that my version contains more, both within and atop, than suggested. Cheese is happy goodness, and one can never have enough happy goodness. I also find this takes the full 25-minute baking time in my very hot oven at the recommended temperature, so it might need longer in a normal oven.

I’ve made this with both asiago and gruyere cheeses, and it's equally fabulous either way. For whatever reason, the idea of using parmesan doesn’t appeal to me. If you try it and it’s good, however, let me know – I’m always game to reconsider my cooking prejudices.

Parisian Gnocchi

1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, room temp
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, gruyere, or asiago cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese or gruyere or asiago cheese
Gruyere is friend.

In small saucepan, combine water, salt and nutmeg with 2 tablespoons butter. Bring to boil over high heat. Add flour all at once and beat dough with wooden spoon until thick and comes away from sides of pan. Cook, stirring to dry out dough, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to medium bowl. Cool 5 minutes.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Set bowl of ice water near stove.

Beat 1 egg into dough until incorporated. Beat in 1/4 cup cheese and another egg until blended. Beat in last egg until dough is smooth and shiny. With spatula, transfer dough to large resealable plastic bag, pressing it into one corner. Cut tip off bag to create opening 1/2-inch long.
Reduce boiling water to gentle simmer. Hold bag over water with one hand and squeeze out dough, using small sharp knife to cut it into 1-1/2-inch lengths; let drop into water. Simmer gnocchi 3 minutes and drain.
Dump cooked gnocchi into 9x13 baking dish that has been greased with the remaining 1 Tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake in preheated 350F oven until puffed, about 25 minutes (I would guess up to 30 minutes in most ovens). Turn oven to broil setting and broil for 3-4 minutes, until browned. Serve immediately. Makes 3-4 servings.
It’s important to include the salt and the nutmeg in the initial cup of pate choux-base water if you want these to be flavorful. This is where I make another confession: I don’t freshly grate my nutmeg. I’ve done it before, and fresh-ground is definitely better, but it wasn’t the orders-of-magnitude better that I had been led to anticipate. If I ever see a nutmeg mill along the lines of a pepper mill, I'd be happy to change my habits – in fact, does anyone know if such a thing is made? – but frankly, I don’t think the trouble of grating nutmeg is worth it for something that will be boiled and baked like this dish. Nutmeg on top of your fresh cappuccino is another story.

I feel better with that “bad foodie confession” off my chest. Please don’t think less of me. If you must think less of me, do so because I actually like green bean casserole, not because I fail to grate my own nutmeg.

Printable recipe here.


  1. I thought this one looks amazingly good--and even more so when I realized you actually made it from scratch!

  2. Thanks! They're actually quite easy, but it took me a time or two of making them to get the hang of how large the gnocchi needed to be. Maybe we'll have you over some time to try them if you're curious. :)