As I mentioned last week, I’m teaming up with Kenmore at this year’s Iowa State Fair for their “Kenmore Honored Harvest Time Recipes” competition on Saturday, August 10. The competition revolves around a few key themes: fresh, local ingredients and a compelling food story.
When I signed on, I started thinking about these themes in my own recipes. As you know, I’m a sucker for a story – all of my favorite restaurants, foods and drinks have some sort of a story and history attached to them. The recipe I decided to share as part of the State Fair competition does, too – in fact, it’s basically the story of my own culinary heritage.
Growing up in a large Italian-American family, the kitchen was always the most important room in the house. My grandma was a very talented cook, who passed all her secrets along to my Mom. Cooking was a way of life – nearly all our meals were made from scratch, and Mom was especially gifted with pasta.
One of the first pastas that my mother showed me how to make was ricotta gnocchi – simple and elegant pasta that was a favorite at home. And, when available, we’d always prepare gnocchi with fresh, local sweet corn. According to my mom, the best way to enjoy fresh sweet corn in Italy was to cut it off the cob and eat it slightly warmed or even raw. She explained that when the corn is enjoyed in its simplest state, it retains its unique sweetness and freshness – to this day, it’s one of corn’s best-kept secrets, even here in Iowa!
Try this one at home – it’s easy to make and a great way to enjoy the flavors of summer.
George’s Ricotta Gnocchi with Iowa Summer Garnish
- 1 lb. ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 to 1 cup 00 flour
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, cheese, and 3/4 cup of the flour until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Mixture should have a smooth, doughy consistency. If the dough is too sticky, add additional flour one tablespoon until the dough is no longer tacky. Let the mixture rest for about 15 minutes.
After resting, refrigerate the dough for an additional 15 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle a baking sheet/cutting board, your work surface and hands with flour.
Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a log about 3/4-inch thick.
Cut the log into 3/4-inch pieces using a sharp knife or a dough scraper. (If you want to shape them into the traditional grooved gnocchi you certainly can; simply roll the dough segments off the back of the tines of a fork using your thumb).
Transfer this batch to the baking sheet and toss them with flour to prevent sticking. Repeat rolling process with the remaining dough.
Add half the gnocchi to the boiling water. Gently stir, making sure the gnocchi don’t stick together. Once they rise to the surface, allow them to cook an additional 2 minutes.
Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander set over a bowl for draining.
Repeat the process with the second batch of gnocchi.
Once drained, sear the cooked gnocchi in butter until lightly browned on one side. Remove from pan and sprinkle with salt. Hold warm.
Iowa Summer Garnish
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups SUNSTEAD FARMS leeks, cleaned and chopped
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 2 cups cut raw GRIMES sweet corn
- 3 cups loosely packed CLEVERLEY FARMS spinach, chopped
- 1 cup diced GRADDY’S tomato
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 tablespoons KALONA SUPERNATURAL butter
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Truffle oil (optional)
Using the same pan you used to sear the gnocchi, add olive oil on medium high heat.
Add leeks, mushrooms, garlic and salt. Cook mixture until all the liquid has evaporated and vegetables are softened and lightly browned.
Add spinach, tomato and corn. Cook just long enough until spinach wilts and the corn is heated. Avoid overcooking the sweet corn.
Toss in the seared gnocchi. Heat thoroughly. While gently stirring the mixture, add butter one tablespoon at a time.
Once butter has melted, transfer the mixture to a serving tray. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and a light drizzle of truffle oil.