Tonight I made pasta, lemon ricotta gnocchi to be specific, and I am worn out!
I have been taking Italian for the past year and a half, getting in touch with my roots, and I love it so much. People ask me sometimes if I can speak fluently yet, and I sort of laugh and think they must be kidding. The grammar is so complex, my brain has been twisted like fusilli! Class starts again on January 24th and I’m already totally stressed out about it because I have slacked a bit on the studying over the holidays. So no, I cannot speak fluently, but I can now make my own limoncello, gnocchi, chicken piccata, and consume copious amounts of vino rosso while trying to force my brain to form a coherent sentence. Wine, bourbon, limoncello, and all forms of alcohol marvelously loosen the tongue when learning another language! We always have plenty on hand.
So back to the pasta! There’s a guy in my class named Bill who is a wizard in the kitchen. My envy of his mad skills knows no bounds. Every time I eat Bill’s food I end up begging him for the recipe and he has graciously obliged. So tonight, I made lemon ricotta gnocchi, and by “made,” I mean wrestled with dough until my arms were sore. You basically get some semolina flour, eggs, lemon zest, and ricotta. Mix that up and make the gluten magic happen till you have a nice ball of dough that also has Parmesan and flour kneaded in.
After it gets some beauty sleep in the fridge, you take it out and begin the process of rolling and cutting the dough to form the gnocchi. The special little touch that gives the pasta its famous ridges comes from a gnocchi board. Yes, these exist and I bought one. It’s basically a block of wood with ridges that has no other purpose than to make pasta look awesome and provide little channels for sauce to stick to. These Italians, they think of everything!
I got all nostalgic tonight while I was doing this. I remembered an episode of some cooking show I saw on PBS one night with these two little Italian women hunched together in a small kitchen making pasta. They took a handful of flour, threw it on a countertop, made a small indentation in the flour, added the most beautifully golden eggs I’ve ever seen, and just started working it all together with their bare hands. Somehow, they ended up with fettuccine. I think there’s some kind of magic that exists in the Italian hills that causes the most mundane of ingredients to become the most sumptuous meals.
Since I moved into my house and now have a kitchen with space in it, I’ve been so excited to cook and learn more Italian dishes. There’s something about making pasta that is very fundamental and makes me feel like I’m doing something generations of women have done before me. I feel the same about baking bread. You can buy a box of pasta for a dollar in the store, or a loaf of bread for a couple of bucks, but when you make these kitchen staples at home and realize the work and love that go into them, there is an appreciation that develops and a sense of pride that swells when they actually come out well!
The gnocchi will be frozen and cooked with a mouthwatering lemon cream sauce. Definitely worth the sore muscles. Until next time, arrivederci!