A Tale of 3 Countries: Parisian Gnocchi Cheese Bake

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Over this past weekend my friend came over for dinner and I was having the hardest time deciding what to make. Since I had been on a crepe kick my mind was still in french food land. After much pursing of the internet and my cookbooks this brought me to Parisian Gnocchi, which is an very specific application of Pâte à Choux. From there I decided that it would be great to make a riff on the delicious pesto Käsespätzle I had while in Germany last summer with a nod to American style mac and cheese. This dish became a fitting ode to my Europe trip in July that included a stop in Paris and Germany and a good lead up to my upcoming trip in the spring.

While I was at the grocery store the basil was not looking so hot but the Italian parsley was looking good so I decided to opt for a parsley based pesto instead of the traditional Basil. When I ended up making the ‘pesto’ it became a sauce that was reminiscent of pesto but defiantly not the traditional application. All in all the dish turned out really tasty and while it took a little while to make because of the steps involved (many of which though can all be done in advance so it can come together quickly) and was a much more sophisticated dinner offering than your traditional mac and cheese

PARISIAN GNOCCHI CHEESE BAKE

Serves 2 as a main and 4 as a side

You will need

1 recipe worth of Parsley ‘Pesto’ Parisian Gnocchi (See below) cooked and drained

1 Medium Spanish Onion

2 Cloves Garlic

1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt

1 Cup Cheese sauce (see below for the ‘recipe’)

Some reserved grated cheese from the Cheese sauce (Since I used all the cheese I had grated in the cheese sauce I topped the dish with Feta since it was what I had on hand)

8×8 Baking Pan

14″ Saute Pan or Cast Iron Skillet

1 Tbsp Butter

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TO ASSEMBLE

Slice the cloves of garlic into thin slices

Cut the onion in half and dice 1/2 the onion into mid size pieces and slice the other half into thin slices

Heat up your saute pan on high heat and add the butter once the butter is hot add all the onions and salt, then turn the heat down to medium. Cook the onions until they are lightly caramelized.

Once the onions are lightly caramelized add in the garlic and cook just long enough to brown the garlic.

Add in the Gnocchi and cook until the Gnocchi are starting to pick up a little color (make sure to mix periodically so they don’t burn)

While the Gnocchi are cooking preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and Grease your baking dish. (This would also be a good time to make the cheese sauce {see below})

Once everything is incorporated and the Gnocchi have started to turn brown on at least one side turn off the stove and remove from the heat.

Pour the contents of your Saute pan into the pot you used to make the cheese sauce (with the cheese sauce still in it) and mix to fully cover everything.

Empty the contents of the pot into your greased baking sheet and top with your reserved cheese.

Place the baking pan into the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until the cheese on top has started to melt and brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for just a few minutes so the cheese can set slightly and cut into pieces and serve.

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PARSLEY ‘PESTO’ PARISIAN GNOCCHI

Parisian Gnocchi is just Pâte à Choux dough (typically used for puff pastries, eclairs, etc) that is piped and cut into pieces over boiling water to make a pasta. This recipe is based on the ratio in Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. These Gnocchi can be made in advance and stored for a day in the refrigerator.

8oz Water

3oz Butter

1 Tsp Salt

4 oz All Purpose Flour (sifted works best)

4 Large Eggs

about 1 Cup Minced fresh Italian (flat leaf parsley)

1 Tsp Fresh Ground Pepper

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic Minced

Small Food Processor or a ‘magic bullet’ blender works too

Small Saute Pan

2 4 Quart pots (or 1 just wash in between procedures)

Kitchen Shears

Wooden Spoon

Sheet Pan lined with a clean kitchen towel

Pastry bag with 1/2″ Tip or Large Zip Lock Bag

A ‘Spider’ or another device to scoop out the finished pasta from the water

The Procedure

Parsley ‘Pesto’

Start by mincing your garlic and parsley mix together with the olive oil 1/2 tsp of the salt and all the pepper in your food processor.

Blend together until a thick but rather smooth paste forms.

Heat up the saute pan and add your parsley mixture to the pan.

Saute briefly to pull out the garlic flavors and to meld all the flavors together.

Remove from the heat and place to the side.

Gnocchi

Place one of the 4 Quart Pots on the stove over high heat and add the water, butter, and 1/2 tsp of salt and bring to a simmer.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour stirring rapidly until a paste forms and the dough pulls away from the side of the pot. Keep stirring for about a minute longer to evaporate off some of the excess water in the dough.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. While the mix is cooling crack your eggs into glass mixing cup for ease of incorporating in the next step.

While the dough is still warm but not hot add the first egg. Mix thoroughly until incorporated, the dough at first will seem like it does not want to except the egg but with enough mixing it will.

Repeat the last step egg by egg until they are all mixed in, making sure to not add a new egg until the previous one is fully incorporated.

Once all the eggs are incorporated mix in your parsley pesto until thoroughly mixed.

Prepare your pastry bag or ziploc bag and scoop out the dough into it.

While the mixture cools fill your second 4 quart pot 2/3 of the way to the top with water and bring to a boil and set up your station. Near where you are boiling the water set up a sheet pan with a clean kitchen towel on it for draining the pasta.

Once the water is boiling pipe out the mixture cutting it with kitchen shears about every 1inch (if using a ziploc bag cut off the corner creating about a 1/2″ hole first). It is best to work in small batches so the pasta does not over cook while you are piping the rest.

When the gnocchi rise test them for doneness (they should could about 2min total, use your judgment based on your set up and the size of your pasta)

Once cooked remove from the pot and lay out to dry on the cookie sheet lined with the towel and let cool.

After all the Gnocchi is cooked you can follow the assembly directions above or keep it in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to a day before preparing the Cheese bake

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