For those of you who have been reading this column for sometime, you’ll recall that one of our “bucket list” items was a trip to Italy, which we were able to accomplish a couple of years ago, Florence to be specific. Liz and I love Italian cuisine, and I’ve been mastering the technique of making homemade pasta for 25 years, at least. In fact, it dawned on me recently while creating fresh angel hair, that the pasta maker that I was using was older than my youngest daughter, Madeline. Man-oh-man does time fly.
Anyway, something that I have not been able to master has been the making of homemade gnocchi, which is basically a small, light, potato dumpling. It can be made with flour as well but the traditional gnocchi is potato based. They are supposed to resemble, “light, fluffy pillows of pasta” when prepared properly. Mine came out as small paperweights. While in Florence we had legitimate gnocchi, made in a way that closely resembled a cheesy mac and cheese. It might have been one of the most delicious things Liz and I have ever eaten.
Let’s fast forward to last weekend. Stay with me here. I was strolling through the local Dollar Tree, looking for a spray bottle to take some stains out of my office carpet. I love going there with Liz because I’ll pick something up and ask her how much she thinks the item I’m holding costs. Hint — it’s called The Dollar Tree for a reason. Everything costs $1. I always get an eye roll. Anyway, I was there by myself looking for a spray bottle when I wandered through the food section. To my amazement I saw pressure-sealed packages of potato based gnocchi imported directly from Italy. How much do you think it cost? Yep, you’re getting good. It cost $1. So I got two of them, knowing that if Liz were with me I would have been the recipient of the same eye-roll.
As I was checking out the lady at the cash register told me that people absolutely love these packages of gnocchi. At first I didn’t think there was a chance of culinary success with this $1 venture but now I was getting excited, kind of like a foodie who discovers a great restaurant. So with growing enthusiasm I decided to try and recreate the dish we had in Florence with my $1 gnocchi.
17.6 oz package of $1 Dollar Tree gnocchi
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3⁄4 cup shredded Italian cheese
1 cup whole whipping cream
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp or so of paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the gnocchi according to package instructions. I knew these were legit when they floated to the surface after three minutes of boiling. My excitement continued to grow. I sprayed a casserole dish with canola oil, drained the gnocchi and placed the gnocchi in the oiled dish. I combined the cream, cheese, pepper and nutmeg in a small pot over medium heat and stirred it until the cheese was fully melted. I poured the cheesy cream over the gnocchi and mixed it all together. Lastly, I sprinkled the paprika over the gnocchi. I placed the dish in an oven set to 350 degrees and baked it for 20 minutes. I decided Liz would be the first one to try it. It looked like the gnocchi dish from Florence and it tasted wonderful as well! Looks like I’ll be going to The Dollar Tree for Italian gnocchi quite frequently!
Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones financial adviser in Jeffersonville by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. Liz is his wife. You can contact Dave with your BBQ, cooking or grilling questions at email@example.com. You can also visit their YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay!