empty pantry gnocchi, from the island of misfit ingredients

You know the feeling: you’ve just gotten home from your holiday travels and there is hardly anything left in your fridge. You don’t want to order a pizza after the onslaught of holiday food overkill so the only option is to cobble together a meal from the sparse ingredients you can find in the dark corners of your kitchen.

slim pickins = no problem

Or at least that’s what I did: here is a recipe for a simple gnocchi dish using only the following items, all rescued from the post-holiday island of misfit ingredients:

4 potatoes, medium-sized (peeled and quartered)
3 cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup of flour (ish)
2 onions, sliced
1 apple, sliced thinly then cut into strips
Some vinegar and juice of a few lemons
Sugar
Salt and pepper
Butter and olive oil
About a cup of leftover red wine

…that’s all you need!

First, make the gnocchi dough. This is not as hard as it sounds. Normally it’s made with egg, flour, Parmesan cheese, and some other filling – often ricotta or potatoes. I had no Parm but plenty of potatoes and milk, so I whipped up some ricotta and used both fillings in lieu of the cheese.

did i mention i got a new camera lens? get ready for the most-photographed gnocchi in history

To make the ricotta, heat up milk in a saucepan over medium low heat until it’s just about to boil. Then remove it from heat and add a splash of lemon juice and a splash of your favorite vinegar (I used basil vinegar because it was handy, but any kind will work). Stir and watch curds separate from whey in a whirl of dairy magic.

cheesemaking as alchemy

After it’s cooled off a bit, pour into a fine-mesh strainer and voila! Ricotta (well, not technically, but for our purposes it’s good enough).

like i said, dairy magic

Meanwhile boil those potatoes till they’re good and soft and mash them up well. If anyone’s counting, my leftovers yielded about 500 grams of mashed, cooked potatoes and 150 grams of ricotta.

Mix these with one egg, a teaspoon of salt, and about a cup of flour. Depending on the humidity in the room and how big your egg is, the amount of flour you will need will vary, but the point is that the dough should be workable but a bit sticky.

Once you have your dough, put it in the fridge for an hour.

Now it’s time for the sauce: place the onions over medium high heat with some butter and olive oil; when they begin to turn translucent, reduce the heat to medium low, add a tablespoon of sugar, and stir occasionally for at least 20 minutes so they start to caramelize.

too old for munching but yummy in sauce

Add the apples, wine, and a bit more lemon juice to the mix and cook on low to medium-low, stirring occasionally, till most of the liquid boils off; then add your final cup of milk, a few spoonfuls of flour, a spoonful of sugar, a little butter, and some salt and pepper. Stir till reduced to a thick sauce and adjust spicing to taste. Set aside.

this is me resisting a cliche about what to do with lemons that you have lying around because life happened to give them to you

Now for the fun part: once your dough has chilled for an hour, lightly flour a clean dry surface and roll the dough into logs, working with just a handful of dough at a time (I find dough is easier to work with when it’s cold, so I keep the bowl of dough in the fridge the entire time).

just like play-dough, but much much tastier

From the logs of dough, just cut off bits to make your gnocchi. Place them on a baking sheet and freeze them for at least 15 minutes before cooking.

itty bitty potato ricotta dumplings

To cook the gnocchi, simply put them in boiling water and wait for them to float. Because they’re so freshly made, they will cook in just a few minutes. As soon as they float, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place in a dish. Top with your sauce and enjoy!

judge with your mouth and not your eyes...

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