Eggplant Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to make it up to Warren to visit my parents.  I haven’t been “home” since Christmas and it was nice to be back.  Before I left my house in Alexandria, I did the usual scavenging through the refrigerator to pack up any produce that wouldn’t make it until I returned.  As it turned out this time it was two pounds of Roma tomatoes and three eggplants.  Tomatoes and eggplants had been on sale for ninety-nine cents a pound and I LOADED up!   I don’t cook with eggplant often and wanted to experiment a bit with it.  Together my Mom and I made some very tasty and extremely filling Eggplant Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce.

Eggplant Gno

Our Eggplant Gnocchi recipe was taken from Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  It was labor intensive and the kitchen looked like an F5 tornado had ripped through it, but it was definitely worth it.

First thing’s first… roast the eggplant and scrape out the flesh.  How you might ask?  I truthfully wasn’t quite sure, so who did I turn to for answers?  Duh—Google!  I found a great website, The Shiksa in the Kitchen, offering me a couple of different methods to choose from (pictures and all).  I chose the oven-roasted method and it turned out to be quite easy: slice, place face down on a baking sheet and broil until starts to deflate and flesh is easily scraped out.  Place in a bowl, set aside and wait for liquid to pool.  Drain well to avoid extra moisture in the gnocchi dough.

Roasted EggplantGnocchi

To start, there are a few processes that needed to happen.  First, we started a saucepan with water and potatoes to cook until soft.  In another pot we briefly dropped tomatoes into some boiling water so we could peel and chop them for our tomato sauce.

Tomato Prep

While Mom set to work on making the gnocchi – ricing/mashing the potatoes and eggplant, rolling the dough and slicing into tiny gnocchi,  I set to work on the tomato sauce.

sauce

In a large skillet, I placed 8 tablespoons of Earth Balance and the chopped tomatoes and cooked, stirring occasionally, until they softened up a bit.  While the original idea for sauce was tasty (and would be great over pasta), I didn’t feel that it was going to pair well with the gnocchi.  It was time to get creative- we added in some tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and fresh chopped basil.  MUCH better! The sauce’s flavor was a little richer, more complex, and in my opinion– much better suited for the gnocchi.  I left the sauce to simmer, then went to help Mom with the gnocchi.

For those unfamiliar with gnocchi, here’s “Mr. Webster’s” definition:

gnocchi def

 

If I had written a dictionary, my definition would read:

my gnocchi definition

The Gnocchi Process:

Rice or Mash the cooked potatoes and eggplant together, season well.  Add flour and knead until proper consistency: moist, but not too sticky.

Gnocchi Making

Roll into logs and cut into small, bite-size, 1-inch chunks,

IMG_0176

and drop into boiling salted water.

IMG_0174

Place into a serving bowl, stir in a little bit of butter to coat

Gnocchi aren't always the easiest things to make, tasted good... but, based on appearance, technique could use a little work. Practice makes perfect...haha

Gnocchi aren’t always the easiest things to make, ours tasted good… but, based on appearance, technique could use a little work. Practice makes perfect…better luck next time Kayla! ;)

and finally serve topped with the tomato sauce… Molto Buono!

Eggplant Gno

 

Eggplant Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce

(SERVES 4)

PRINT RECIPE HERE!

For the Gnocchi:

  • 1 pound baking potatoes (russet or Idaho are good choices)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 1lb eggplant, roasted and flesh scraped out & drained

For the Tomato Sauce

  • 3 1/2 cups (about 2 lbs) peeled and chopped fresh plum tomatoes
  • 8 tbsp vegan butter
  • 6-8oz tomato sauce, depending on desired flavor
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
  • freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste

To Roast the Eggplant:

  1. Preheat your oven broiler on the hottest (maximum) setting. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
  2. Wash and dry eggplant, then slice in half lengthwise.
  3. Place eggplant halves flesh-side down (so the flat cut side is directly against the baking sheet).
  4. Roast under the broiler for 15-30 minutes until the eggplant halves are charred and the halves are beginning to collapse. The larger the eggplant, the longer it will take to roast. Smaller eggplants (like Japanese eggplants) will roast more quickly.
  5. Remove from oven. Check the eggplant flesh to make sure it is soft, roasted, and caramelized throughout. If any parts looked light-colored or undercooked, return to the oven to roast for a few minutes longer.
  6. Scoop out the roasted pulpy flesh from each half and place it in a bowl. Discard the charred skin. There will be some residual smoky juice that collects in the bowl; you can drain it off or blend it into the eggplant, depending on the flavor you want to achieve (for the gnocchi, drain this juice).

Gnocchi Preparation:

  1. Put potatoes in a pot with water to cover and salt it; adjust the heat so the water simmers and cook until the potatoes are quite tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and peel* (use a pot holder or towel to hold the potatoes and peel with a small knife; it will be easy). Rinse the pot and once again fill it with salted water and bring to a boil.
  2. Use a fork, potato masher, or ricer to mash or rice the potatoes in a bowl, along with some salt and pepper. Mash the drained, roasted eggplant through the ricer along with the potatoes. Add about 1/2 cup of flour and stir; add more flour until the mixture forms a dough you can handle. Knead for a minute or so on a lightly floured surface. Pinch off a piece of the dough and boil it to make sure it will hold its shape; if it does not, knead in a bit more flour. The idea is to make a dough with as little additional flour and kneading as possible.
  3. Roll a piece of the dough into a rope about 1/2″ thick, then cut the rope into 1-inch lengths; traditionally, you would spin each of these pieces off the tines of a fork or gnocchi board to score it lightly. As each gnoccho is ready, put it on a sheet of wax paper; do not allow them to touch.
  4. A few at a time, add the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir. A minute after they rise to the surface, the gnocchi are done; remove with a slotted spoon.
  5. Put in a bowl and sauce or reheat in butter within a few minutes; these do not keep well.

Tomato Sauce:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Put the salt, tomatoes, and butter in a large straight-sided sauté pan. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer for 10 minutes. Add tomato sauce, basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Taste the sauce and add more salt if necessary.

 

Things We Learned about the Gnocchi:

1) Make sure you season the dough with plenty of salt and pepper prior to cooking it for optimal flavor.

2) Be sure that the dough has enough flour.  We didn’t use quite enough flour and they didn’t firm up like I think they should have.  I found it better to start with the recipe’s direction for amount of flour, but don’t be afraid to add more depending on how wet the dough is as you are kneading it.  We were afraid to add too much, and in hindsight, didn’t add enough.  The dough should be moist, but not sticky.

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