101 in 1001 #57: Make homemade pasta!

Shortly after I moved out here, Dave and I binge-watched "Master of None," which I had never seen and which he proclaimed one of the best modern shows he'd seen. I adored it unequivocally - not in the least for the second season's first few episodes, set in stunning Italy as lead character Dev (a lovably hapless-in-love Aziz Ansari) learns to make homemade pasta. 

The show, coupled with the fact that Dave is the child of an Italian family and had made pasta from practically infancy, made me urgently want to check this item off my list. When I came back from Thanksgiving to find a superabundance of potatoes in our kitchen, Dave's suggestion that they become gnocchi couldn't have seemed more timely. 

We had noble goals of spending Dave's Friday night on call cooking, which went rapidly off the rails when he had to go in to the hospital. I prepared to press pause on the whole enterprise, and cozied up with a glass of champagne and some sportsball on television to wait him out. Around 9:30, however, he texted me that he was unlikely to make it home at a decent hour...and that I was on my own to make gnocchi. 

I panicked, a little bit, as one does when confronted with the news that she has to tackle pasta solo for the first time ever. And then I went to town. 

I had a blast churning the potatoes through my new food mill, purchased at Williams-Sonoma based on Dave's instructions. Aside: I'm dangerously obsessed with Williams-Sonoma lately, especially as I've been cooking so much more (and enjoying it so much more). Every time I go in there I want to spend obscene gobs of money on all the gorgeous cookware and gadgety things. GROWN-UP PROBLEMS. 

The situation went downhill with alarming speed when, having followed Dave's instructions to a T, I was left with excessively sticky dough. In hindsight, the common-sense thing to do would have been to add flour...but I was convinced that Dave knew what he was doing and that I was being an idiot by thinking this was wrong. So I blithely continued to "make gnocchi..."

And you would think that I would have at some point realized how awful things were going to turn out when the dough was near-impossible to manipulate. The key is to roll it out into long snakes and cut the dough into little tiny pillows...Dave's words, not mine. My snakes wouldn't roll, they just kind of gummed up our counter, and when I cut them they sort of...puddled. I don't have a better verb for what they did, but trust me - it wasn't pretty. 

I tried to cook them anyway - following Dave's instructions to wait until they floated and then pull them out - and this was the end result: 

I don't even know what you would call these. Sad mashed-potato nuggets? I was simultaneously so frustrated and amused that I couldn't stop laughing - I don't think I've ever been so appalled by something I "created" in the kitchen before, and that's really saying something. 

I scrapped the dough/mush/goo, set our (amazing) homemade vodka sauce aside, cleaned up the war zone that was the kitchen, and boiled Dave some fettuccine noodles for dinner when he finally made it home around 11pm. Though he was on call again the following night, we tried again...this time, SO much more successfully! 

Largely because Dave took charge of the dough and taught me what it's actually supposed to look and feel like: 

How much better do those look? The recipe is legit just a whole bag of potatoes, put through a ricer or food mill...plus three egg yolks, a pinch of salt and pepper, and flour to the point where it forms ^that^ kind of dough. It couldn't be easier - but so much of it is dependent on texture and feel that I was just screwed from the start. 

Dave also appreciated the importance of letting me taste-test all the way along the way - and had made another giant double batch of vodka sauce while I rolled and cut fifty million gnocchi. He cooked a few of them up for me and threw them in sauce/topped them with basil while I cut...and I almost immediately started dreaming of moving to Italy and just making/eating pasta full-time, "Master of None" style. 

UM HI. How delicious do those look?! 

So there you have it - homemade gnocchi by Chef Dave with yours truly alongside for sous chef comic relief. We have an overabundance of them hanging out in our freezer now - can't wait to spend the next couple months experimenting with sauces, or to keep learning the homemade pasta world! 

For more 101 in 1001, head here...it's probably about time to start thinking about tackling macarons, hmm?!