Pan Fried Gnocchi with a Sweet Balsamic Reduction

or experiments in decadence, celebrating every day life

Last night I was left to my own devices for dinner.  While I do normally cook dinner at home, I also usually have the tastes of my lovely husband to take into account so I try not to take too big of risks with that particular weekday meal.  But last night, as I mentioned, I was alone.  Just me, our dog Riley, and a poorly stocked kitchen.  That's right, we did not go grocery shopping last weekend, so our stock was getting pretty bare by Thursday night when the last of our meat from our quick trip to the butcher shop had already run out.  Every fiber of my being wanted to just pick something up for dinner from a restaurant, but the thought of fast food was anything but appealing.  Go figure.  So I had to come up with something resourceful and delicious on my own.  Enter - the forgotten ingredients.

I tend to get inspired to make various dishes as I am wandering through the grocery stores and markets and pick up "essential" items in what can best be described as rationalized impulse buys.  These ingredients come home and set up residence in my cupboard, since odds are good that instant inspiration has already slipped my mind, and await their fate in a completely different dish.  This is how I ended up with balsamic vinegar.  I intended to make a reduction with some grand meal my head had concocted months ago, but it seemed like a lot of work - so into the cupboard it went.  Then last night it came to mind again while I was pondering what I could experiment with when I had only myself to disappoint, and could easily dispose of the evidence before anyone else came home.  It was the perfect finishing touch to a dish that was yet to be determined  After I took stock mentally of the limited options we had in our pantry I settled on using it with pan fried gnocchi, also a first during this meal, which surprisingly turned out as good on my plate as it sounded in my head.  Gnocchi is a bit sticky when it is freshly cooked so I thought that was the perfect time to toss in some breadcrumbs, and they should stick right?  Well this time logic was on my side, and the experiment turned out beautifully!  It was decadent and delicious, and made me feel like I must be enjoying a meal in celebration of some great success (other then finally using that balsamic).  I only wished I had someone to share it with... so here we are (I even made it look pretty, sort of):

16 oz Gnocchi - store bought or homemade (see optional recipe below)
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Olive oil
4 oz Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Hardware: large pot, small sauce pot, and deep pan

1. Boil a pot of lightly salted water and cook gnocchi 2-3 minutes, until floating (or per package directions).

2. Place about half the breadcrumbs in a deep dish.  As the gnocchi finishes use a slotted spoon to lift and drain the gnocchi, then toss in a single layer in the breadcrumbs.  Make sure the first layer has room to move about and shake the dish to get the gnocchi to roll around and coat in the breadcrumbs.  Continue to drain gnocchi and add to the dish, top with the remaining breadcrumbs and shake to ensure that they coat.  Use a spoon if necessary to stir the breadcrumbs and ensure coverage.  The sticky texture of the cooked gnocchi will help adhere the breadcrumbs without any other help.  Set aside.

3. In the small sauce pot add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar.  Turn on medium low heat and simmer for about 8-10 min, stirring regularly, until a syrup consistency forms (lightly coats the back of a spoon).  Then remove from heat.

4. While the balsamic is cooking, heat half of the olive oil in the bottom of the deep pan, it should be just enough to coat.  Use a slotted spoon to remove half the gnocchi from the breadcrumbs, shake lightly to remove excess, and add in a loose single layer in the pan.  Flip once the bottom starts to become golden.  Remove to a metal strainer once evenly browned, season with a bit of kosher salt if desired.  Drain the used oil and repeat the process with the remaining olive oil and gnocchi.

5. Serve gnocchi drizzled with the sweet balsamic reduction and top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Ricotta Gnocchi Recipe

Ricotta - 8 oz, lowfat or fat free
Eggs - 2
Parmesan Romano Cheese
Minced garlic, salt, pepper
Flour - 1+ cups
Olive oil

Bring a medium size pot of water to boil

1. Stir Ricotta, eggs, Parmesan Romano, and spices until an even texture exists throughout

2. Gradually mix in flour until a dough-like consistency is formed

3. Roll the dough into 1/2“ to 3/4” balls and press in your hand with a thumb print about halfway down to create an oval shape

4. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water in batches until they float to the top

5. Either continue recipe above for pan fried gnocchi* or remove the gnocchi and place in a strainer until all batches are cooked, lightly sprinkle with olive oil while waiting and then toss with a prepared pasta sauce and serve.

* if using Ricotta Gnocchi for the pan fried style, you'll want to lay them out in a single layer on a pan after breading and place in the refirdgerator to chill for 10-15 min before pan frying.

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