I’ll tell you a story. A couple months ago, I attempted to make gnocchi. Somebody told me it was simple and judging by the recipe, it seemed like something I could do. I had all the ingredients on-hand and I didn’t think it would take me so long. I woke up at 6:30 that morning to try and make them before I left for work. Big mistake. It was a complete disaster. Without a ricer and a masher, I ended up with these sticky dumplings that weren’t at all reminscient of gnocchi. I was disheartened.
But a friend of mine, Westley, who is actually the chef de partie at the restaurant at the Marriott hotel where I used to work encouraged me to try it again — this time with taro. Yes, folks. I made taro gnocchi with sauteed kale and pesto from scratch. Bitch, what!?
“Why on earth does this girl have taro in her fridge?!”, you ask? Well, why the hell not!? Again, I scored a bargain at T&T with a bag of baby bell peppers and a couple peeled pieces of fresh taro root. Honestly, you know my immense hate for peppers so really, I was honestly going straight for the taro root. It was an ingredient I have never worked with in my kitchen so I wanted to experiment and give it a go.
I decided to go with the gnocchi route. So random, I know. I could’ve made steamed taro, taro puree, taro milkshakes…but no, I went with gnocchi. I wanted a challenge and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Plus, taro gnocchi sounds fucking kick ass. I mean, have YOU ever had or heard of taro gnocchi? No. I wanted to create something with an unfamiliar ingredient that was so out of my comfort zone — and I was successful on all accounts!
First of all, yes, gnocchi IS easy to make…with a box grater! I do not have a potato ricer, nor do I have a potato masher. I read a tip to use a box grater — something I DID have — and it worked miraculously. The idea is to make or “rice” cooked potatoes into small, uniform pieces. You can also use a potato masher but alas, I do not own one anymore. Please do NOT confused mashing with pureeing. You do not want to puree your potatoes in a food processor because it will becoming glutinous, overly starchy and gluey in texture. No, just no. In my initial attempt in making gnocchi, I mashed it manually with a fork but it left so many clumps that it just did not work out. Lesson learnt.
Secondly, the less flour the better. Gnocchi is a toss up between potato dumplings and pasta. You want tender, fluffy morsels of dough when cooked. It should feel pillowy soft and not like a clump of flour. It’s also good to note that I did this in my KitchenAid stand mixer with the dough hook attachment which saved me the work of kneading it, yay!
And lastly, be sure to flour it when rolling out into strips and when you cut them into individual pieces. This is to prevent them from sticking together. This is also vital if you are intending to freeze any leftover pieces as well. Flour them, place on a non-stick surface, pop it in the freezer til each piece is frozen, portion it off and slip into little Ziploc bags! Cook them in a pot of boiling water and voila, dinner!
So really, it is a lot of fun to make. It took me maybe an hour to make the actual gnocchi and another additional hour to make the sauce, cook the gnocchi, and clean up. This is one of those dishes where it takes me more time than usual to make the dish but the end product was SO rewarding. I cooked the entire batch of pesto and just tossed it in some pesto, sauteed kale and topped it off with a squeeze of lemon and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Best dinner I’ve made in a long time.
Taro gnocchi with sauteed kale and pesto
What you’ll need:
– 2 lbs fresh taro root, unpeeled
– 2 eggs, beaten
– ~ 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
– Pinch of salt
– 1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
– 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 6 ribs dinosaur kale, leaves only, roughly chopped
– 1 tsp dried red chili flakes
– Salt and pepper, to taste
– 1 lemon, juice only
– 1/3 cup of your favourite pesto
What you’ll need to do:
1. Cook your taro in a pot of boiling water, heavily seasoned with salt. The taro root is cooked once you can pierce a fork through it. Mine took about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and submerge in ice water. for 5 – 10 minutes. Pat dry and set aside.
2. Once your taro is cooled down, grate the starchy root into the bowl of your stand mixer. With the dough hook attachment, add the beaten eggs while beating the mixture on low speed.
3. Gradually add the flour until it begins to ball up into workable dough.
4. Flour both your hands as well as a clean work surface and and take a bit of dough (~3/4 cup) and roll it into a log about 1/2″ thick.
5. With a floured, non-serrated knife, cut the log into individual 1/2″ – 1″ pieces. Make sure to individually flour each piece. If desired, roll each individual piece on the back of a fork (this didn’t really work for me but you can definitely try it). Place all the pieces on a non-stick Silpat-lined or parchment paper-lined baking sheet until ready to cook.
6. When you’re ready, drop the pieces of gnocchi into a pot of salted, boiling water. Cook them in batches as they will not cook properly if they are overcrowded. The gnocchi is finished cooking once they float to the top.
7. In a medium saucepan, heat your ghee over medium-high heat until liquefied and until it is hot enough for frying.
8. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale and cook until wilted. If need be, add 1/8 cup of water. Add your seasonings, pesto and fresh gnocchi. Top with freshly squeezed lemon juice and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.